Retro Review: ‘Corruption’

In the 1960’s the French film Eyes Without a Face was part of a movement that changed the horror genre onscreen. Naturally this masterpiece inspired a number of other filmmakers to try their own hand at the story of a mad scientist using his skills to save a loved one. In this case, prolific exploitation writer/director Robert Hartford-Davis who crafted a 1968 flick that has gone on the be seen as one of the most controversial pictures in British history, Corruption.

Forced to be a party hosted by his much younger fiancée Lynn, prominent surgeon Sir John Rowan gets in an altercation with a smarmy photographer. The scuffles causes a stage light to collapse horribly burning Lynn’s face. This forces Rowan to forgo his other work and focus on repairing the face of his fiancée no matter the cost. This of course means he has to prey on innocent young women to harvest their pituitary glands to carry on his experiments. His works only provides a temporary solution leading Rowan to seek out new involuntary donors at the behest of his vain lover. Inevitably this backfires when they bring in a young woman as a potential victim only to have her bring in her compatriots for a home invasion, when they discover the horrors of what Sir John and Lynn are responsible everything changes.

The comedian Eddie Izzard had a bit once where he claimed there was only a small window in the 1960’s where Britain was cool. If that is true then Corruption takes place squarely within that window. Robert Hartford-Davis brings the colorful, counterculture rock and roll lifestyle of the hip young Brits of the era to this movie. This is the Swingin’ Sixties and the director is emphasizing the “Swingin'”. Standing out amid all of this as the proverbial stuffy old man is horror legend Peter Cushing who brought a high degree of legitimacy to the flick. His character, Sir John Rowan is completely out of place as far as the atmosphere is concerned but he realizes this is the price he pays to have a fiancée who is several notches out of his league. Of course this makes him even scarier as an outsider among this setting. While many have pointed out that Corruption drew inspiration from the previously mentioned classic Eyes Without a Face, the sleazy quality of the picture will probably bring to mind the cult classic of the American Drive-In The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

Upon its release Corruption was heavily edited for its release in the United Kingdom and the United States. Thankfully now the full cut of this movie is available for viewers no matter where they may live. On the surface Corruption may look like an exploitation horrorshow, but the presence of Peter Cushing alone elevates the material to a higher level.