Dana: This year’s Shocktober festivities began with a bang with Robert Hartford-Davis’ Corruption, starring Peter Cushing as a distinguished surgeon whose model fianceé has a nasty accident involving her face and a flood lamp. Overcome with grief, he devotes his life to finding a cure for her scarred face, which leads him down a path of murder and, well, corruption.
Darren: A surgeon who must operate upon the dead (and, ultimately, the living) is certainly well in the wheelhouse of Cushing, who took more than a few turns playing Dr. Victor Frankenstein, but all Gothic trappings are switched for mod-a-go-go London and tasteful cutaways are switched for startlingly brutal murder scenes. Meanwhile, complications grow ever more difficult to avoid — Cushing’s fiance’ (Sue Lloyd, probably best known from The Ipcress File) develops a Lady Macbethesque need for any and all to die in order to keep her power, an attempt at bringing a young hitchhiker back to the house leads to home invasion and ghastly discoveries, and all the while Cushing’s future brother-in-law keeps giving him the razz about ethics and decency.
Dana: It might not seem like a stretch for Cushing, a man whose name is synonymous with mid-century British horror, but this is quite a different film for the actor best known as Van Helsing – he’s the (reluctant) villain of the film, using corpses to find the parts he needs, until he realizes live victims will do better. He’s a wild-eyed, wild-haired madman who kills prostitutes and train passengers with bloody brutality.
Darren: What Corruption does well is continue building the pitch, adding pressure to Cushing’s ever-increasing series of problems: throughout the film, he seems like a man in a world he doesn’t understand and for which he is entirely unequipped — he’s belittled by the fashionable, the strong, those without any morality whatsoever, so that by the time we get to the finale (I won’t spoil it, but it’s nuts) it seems the only way such a film could end.
Dana: Sue Lloyd is great as the burned woman who eggs her husband on more and more to help her regain her lost beauty. There’s one particularly great scene in which Lyon, surrounded by mirrors reflecting her damaged face, smashes mirror upon mirror until they are as broken as she sees herself. As I said on Twitter, Corruption is one part Hammer horror film, two parts HG Lewis execution, and, for some reason, one part Straw Dogs subplot. Not a bad way to start the month!