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Old 02-13-2008, 05:36 PM
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traboule traboule is offline
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Shock Corridor
(1966, Peter Breck, Dir. Samuel Fuller)

Shock Corridor is about an ambitious reporter, Johnny Barrett, who fakes a psychological disorder in order to be committed to the same mental hospital where a mysterious murder occurred. His attempts to interview the mentally unsound witnesses have mixed results and meanwhile the electroshock therapy and various other 'treatments' for his illness seem to be taking away his sanity.

I wasn't impressed with the film at first, owing to a clunky set-up scene, where Johnny's girlfriend, Kathy, goes into a verbose rant about why he shouldn't go into the asylum. It turns out that the actress who plays Kathy is one of the weak links of the film and most scenes with her were annoying.

Far more interesting, more interesting even than the solution of the mystery, or even Barrett's own mental deterioration, is the film's portrayal of the mental hospital and its inmates. The best scenes involved Barrett's interaction with the other inmates. In an attempt to obtain his fellow patients' confidence, Barrett often plays along with their delusions, to sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant and sad effect. Patch Adams' scene with Robin Williams helping his roommate attack the imaginary squirrels comes to mind (mediocre movie, I know, but I thought that particular scene was great).

Fuller uses the inmates' confidences to Barrett to touch on a few of the controversial issues of the time - there's an African American patient who was the first black student in a white university before he cracked and succumbed to self-hate in the form of calls for white supremacy. In maybe the most haunting scene of the film, there is also the Korean War veteran who breaks out of his Civil War delusion to describe the circumstances by which he came to be dishonorably discharged from the military.

I also really like all the scenes with Barrett's big, bearded roommate.

The ending was all right, but certainly not unexpected, considering how the film kept having Kathy drop heavy-handed portents. Overall, though as a picture of mentally destroyed men, Shock Corridor does a good job.


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