For horror fans that lived through he 70’s and 80’s, the name Peter Cushing stands among a very exclusive list of masterful horror actors. Arguably, Peter Cushing’s performances as Victor von Frankenstein represent the very best that have EVER hit the silver screen. Cushing’s uncanny ability to be both socially refined, thoroughly educated and totally depraved epitomize the archetype of the mad scientist. Corruption (1968) offers a unique interpretation of this classic horror role. This film came at a time where both Cushing, and the world, were reinventing themselves. In that, Corruption offers an interesting piece of art that documents that transition.
For those used to the gothic trapping that typically surround Peter Cushing, Corruptions offers quite a jolt to the system. The setting is the swinging ’60s in London. Appropriately, Director Robert Hartford-Davis, drops Peter Cushing into the polyester psychedelic trappings of the Love Movement. As one would expect, Cushing flops a bit like a fish out water. However, this juxtaposition works in favor of the film as it creates both an interesting character dynamic, but also serves as a metaphor for Cushing’s career as the film industry ascended its traditional conservative fetters.
Playing the adept plastic surgeon, Sir John Rowan, Cushing’s clash with culture begins with a party fit for Austin Powers himself.
The Pursuit of Vanity, The Root of Evil
Written by Derek and Donald Ford, Corruption takes the well traveled road by telling the tale of a man who uses his considerable talents to preserve the lost beauty of the woman that he loves. It tells a tale not unlike that told by the French classic Eyes Without a Face (1960). It’s not completely different than the tale that Joe D’Amato told in Beyond Darkness (1979). It describes the narcissistic depths that a man may go preserve the object of his affection. Lest we forget the Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). For Malevolent Dark, it evoked vague memories of the 1972 lesson in bad cinema Dr. Gore M.D. (1972).
Let’s not stop there! This might be the masterwork that Herschel Gordon Lewis would create if given $500K and free creative license!
During the aforementioned polyester groove fest, Dr. Rowin attends a party with his beautiful fashion model financée, Lynn Nolan played by Sue Lloyd. During an impromptu photo session that leads to Lynn showing more skin that Dr. Rowin thought appropriate, a fight breaks out. During the scuffle, a red hot light falls on Lynn, permanently scarring her face. Knowing his part in the tragedy, Dr. Rowin is devastated.
Being at the top of his game in the medical profession, he quickly learns to harness the power of the pituitary gland. However, for the procedure to work he needs the freshest of the fresh glands to implant and the effects are not permanent. To keep Lynn unscarred and vibrant, he must find new victims.
Paging Dr. Frankenstein
What makes this a great role for Cushing is that it’s almost like one that he’s not only familiar with, but quite possibly the master of. However, this time the role is much more nuanced. As mentioned before, Cushing portrays the best Victor Frankenstein in the business. The role of Sir John Rowin shares some of Frankenstein’s psychology. Rowin is a man so blinded by the pursuits of his science that he commits evil all around him. The difference this time is that Sir John Rowin feels remorse, but he is unable to stop for the love of his fiancée.
Baron Frankenstein possesses no sympathy at all. However small the nuance, it affords Peter Cushing a much larger canvas to paint. In this case, Lynn Nolan may be the greater monster.
An Ending Wanting for More
Not wanting to spoil the ending, we’ll try to speak in broad strokes, but Robert Hartford-Davis does fumble the ball at the finish line. He chooses an interesting scene towards the end where a band of hippy-robbers commit a home-invasion at Lynn and John’s seaside cottage. It provides an unintended foreshadowing of the horrible events that would be lead by Charles Manson the following year. The invasion builds up to a final confrontation that looks to be very satisfying from a dramatic closure perspective. Then, stealing failure from the jaws of victory, the director makes as last second dodge in the waning seconds of the film. Was it all a dream? Awful.
A Well Produced Affair
Robert Hartford-Davis does very well creating a tapestry of color and sound to his film. As mentioned, the colors are appropriate for the day-glo era and pleasing to the eye. The filming and cinematography look fantastic. While especially artful, the photography is striking to the eye. Cinematographer Peter Newbrook manages to frame a few interesting shots. The film mostly employs a period correct jazz soundtrack that playfully drives many of the scenes. This becomes especially apparent in a lengthy chase towards the end of the film.
In the gore department, Corruption employs a series of gruesome scenes involving the disincorporated remains of several female victims. The film features more that one severed human head. Overall, the films use of blood and guts is not over-the-top.
Peter Cushing’s Finest Work?
As a lifelong fans of Peter Cushing’s work, we were tickled to learn that this relatively obscure gem existed. Again, being a huge fan of his catalog, there were few crimes that this film could commit that would result in an unfavorable review. Still, a decent grade is justified. Overall, the film is well acted. It possesses above average production qualities. To the detractors, it’s true that the film has a few pacing issues. In general, the film feels a bit silly at times. Yet, when considered as a whole, the film still proves to be entertaining, if only as a curiosity.
Corruption is a good, but not great film. However, if you love Peter Cushing, expect to enjoy this little gem.
Corruption (1968) - An Epic Cushing Renaissance - Malevolent Dark
Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
Date Created: 1968-01-01 01:00