Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shock Corridor

First Published Here

Samuel Fuller, considered in certain circles the patron saint of American independent cinema was, in fact, a studio man for much of his career. It wasn’t until the early '60s when those relationships had run their course that Fuller turned to less conventional means to finance his pictures. The ‘indie’ film that cemented his reputation was 1963’s Shock Corridor. As subtle as a kick to the head and just as unnerving, the film concerns a reporter who feigns mental illness to gain admittance to an institution where a patient’s murder goes unsolved. But the murder mystery is an afterthought, an excuse for Fuller to expose and espouse on a variety of societal ills. Racism, communism, nuclear war all come under attack in a ceaseless torrent of invective perfectly matched to the flat staging, cheap sets and Stanley Cortez’s harsh, elemental lighting. You might shake your head at the film’s sheer brazenness, but you can’t help but marvel at Fuller’s primal audacity.

I imagine that Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition looks and sounds just as good if not better than the film did when it got its initial b-movie theatrical run. The disc also includes a terrific hour long documentary shot for IFC the year before Fuller passed away in 1997 as well as an interview with star Constance Towers and some neat new artwork by cartoonist Daniel Clowes.

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