Director: Robert Hartford-Davies
Script: Donald & Derek Ford
Cast: Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, David Lodge, Noel Trevarthen, Anthony Booth, Kate O’ Mara, Wendy Varnals, Billy Murray
Running time: 92 minutes
Year: 1967
Certificate: 18

Until fairly recently Corruption was only available on dodgy DVD-R releases, usually under its alternative title of Laser Killer. Not so long ago US boutique label, Grindhouse, released the film, uncut, and now Powerhouse/Indicator have released it here in the UK, where it originated from in the first place. Described, disapprovingly, by its genteel star, Peter Cushing, as “fearfully sick”, Corruption is certainly not the usual sort of horror film one associates with Mr Cushing, best known for his gothic horror films from the 1950s -1970s. However, it’s still well worth a visit, particularly if you’re more of a fan of horror films set in the more modern day era, featuring ‘dolly-birds’ rather than voodoo dolls.

Corruption is essentially a ‘swinging Sixties’ update of George Franju’s Les Yeux Sans Visage (aka Eyes without a Face), whereby a surgeon (in this case Cushing’s Dr John Rowan) tries to restore his beloved’s facial features after they are horribly disfigured during an earlier accident, at a photo shoot, whereby a fallen hot photographic lamp melts half her face off. After some experimenting with guinea pigs Dr Rowan progresses to fresh corpses, until finally finding that, for the best results, only the freshest pituitary glands will do; taken from freshly murdered young women.

Initially Rowan brutally kills a prostitute and then progresses to a young woman on a train, until he’s finally had enough, but is encouraged by his deformed (and, by this time, depraved) wife to continue so that she can remain beautiful, ala Countess Bathory. And, when a bunch of violent hippies turn up, dressed like some extras from a Sergeant Peppers’ music video, things really get out of hand, including the wildly inappropriate use of the laser equipment that John’s been using on his wife.

Corruption is very much a product of its time, but is all the better for it, since it’s an interesting snapshot of 60s London, including the fashions and human interactions. Plus, Cushing, who’s in nearly every scene, is excellent as the prim and proper surgeon slowly driven mad by his guilt over the accident that damaged his lovely bride and also by his overwhelming desire to help the woman he’s madly in love with.

Journeyman director Robert Hartford-Davies does a reasonable, if not particularly inspired, job of keeping everything looking relatively interesting and the plot ticking along, and Cushing’s supporting cast are all decent, especially Sue Lloyd, who, in many ways, becomes the true villain of the piece. It’s also good fun seeing the likes of character actors David Lodge and Bill Murray in smaller, but still substantial roles. It’s also satisfying to see future Dynasty star, Kate O’Mara, replete with piercing eyes, playing Lloyd’s worried sister, and interesting to see Anthony Booth playing Lloyd’s former boyfriend/photographer, who, these days, is better known as former PM Tony Blair’s father-in-law!

The film isn’t as violent as many movies made these days, but it has a somewhat sleazy quality, especially during the prostitute and train murders, with Cushing looking especially sweaty and manic as he roughly man-handles his curvaceous prey. These scenes are made even more disturbing through the use of a fish-eye lens, which distorts the scenes in an unnerving way. I can see, in hindsight, why he might have wanted to withdraw from the film as it’s certainly not typical of his oeuvre and sullies his reputation as the ‘gentleman of horror’.

Whilst Corruption has its weaknesses (the young woman frolicking alone on the beach seems unlikely behaviour for a twenty-something year-old, and the jazz score is often unsuitable for the scenes unfolding), but it still retains its power to shock and disturb an audience, and it utilises some cool locations well, has a great cast and a features a solid story.

Powerhouse is distributing Corruption on Blu-ray, as part of its Indicator series. The extras that come with this release include:

Three different versions of the film; namely the UK, the US and continental cuts of the movie; all are similar lengths, but the continental version has more gratuitous nudity in it!

An audio commentary provided by David Miller (Shivers editor) and author Jonathan Rigby. The two writers are informative, although do tend to describe what’s going on in the film a fair bit.

Guardian interview with Peter Cushing (74 mins) – Here the then 73 year old actor is on fine form and demonstrates his lighter side by making plenty of quips and obviously enjoying making his audience laugh. The interview is very interesting, but fans of Cushing’s horror films may feel a bit short-changed as that whole part of his career is somewhat rushed over and only last for a few minutes towards the end. We learn that Peter once got the train down to Exmouth to commit suicide, but got side-tracked by a nice bird (the feathered variety); that he was terrified of bulls; and that he could do a good Frankie Howerd impression. The interview is wall-to-wall with funny anecdotes from his theatrical and cinematic encounters with the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Humphrey Bogart and Oscar Wilde.

The BEHP (British Entertainment History Project) interview with Peter Newbrook (95 mins) – This audio-only interview with the DoP of Corruption loses its thread quite a bit, but at 56 minutess in Corruption does get talked about as Peter recalls that it was mostly shot at Idelworth Studios, which used to be an old cinema. The film did quite well in the box-office making $4M gross from only a £80K budget.

Cast interviews: Phillip Manikem: The reluctant Beatnik (14.5 mins) – Phillip played the gang leader and remembers it well since it was his first film part. Whatever happened to Wendy Varnels? (16 mins) – Wendy played the girl on the beach and remembers enjoying being around Peter Cushing and Sue Lloyd. Interview with Bill Murray (13.5 mins) – Bill played one of the hippies in the film, but is best known for his work on The Bill. Peter accidentally injured him during the shoot and he came away with 17 stitches in his face! Interview with Jan Waters (9 mins) – Jan played the prozzie and she requested that she get to die with her eyes open, which she did.

Stephen Laws introduces Corruption (7 mins) – The author does a good job of putting the film into perspective and talks about the differences between the Peter Saxon book and the film.

Laser Killer opening titles (2.42 mins) – Same credits, but different title

Trailer, TV and radio spots – the UK trailer (1.49 mins) and US trailer (2.06 mins) – both trailers make a point of saying that ‘no woman will be admitted to this super-shocker without an escort’!

Image gallery – 123 promotional stills, posters and behind-the-scenes shots, plus the director’s shooting script, all 84 pages of it.

Corruption - Indicator
3.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.