After the end of the second world war, Robert Hartford-Davis worked in a variety of capacities at numerous British studios before making his own short films and episodes of TV shows like Police Surgeon (1960). In mid-1962 he won the contract to make films for Compton-Cameo, who ran profitable cinema clubs specialising in risqué films and now wanted to branch out into film production.
So successful were the 1963 pictures That Kind of Girl (which Hartford-Davis produced), and The Yellow Teddybears (which he produced and directed), that a year later he was appointed 'executive in charge of all production'.
Director of Photography on these films was Peter Newbrook, who had previously worked on such prestigious pictures as The Sound Barrier (1952), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and In The Cool of the Day (1963). In August 1964, Hartford-Davis and Newbrook formed Titan Productions, immediately making the bizarre pop musical, Gonks Go Beat (1965). Their biggest budgeted film followed in 1966: The Sandwich Man was a comedy produced with money from the National Film Finance Corporation, a funding organisation set up to initiate new independent British film productions.
Not even cameos from numerous top British comic stars could prevent it from being only a modest success, and with none of the other NFK-funded films succeeding, Titan had to look elsewhere for capital. It came in January 1967 from independent American company, Oakshire Films, with whom Titan signed to make three films, all to be distributed through Columbia. The first two announced - The Mask of Innocence, a story of a child's obsessive love for her father, and We, the Guilty, concerning the nationwide pursuit of two prison escapees - both went unmade. The third was Corruption.
Hartford-Davis came up with the original idea and brought in Donald and Derek Ford to write the script. The Fords had written all of Hartford-Davis's Compton-Cameo releases, and had stayed with the company to author the classic Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper film, A Study In Scarlet (1965).
Peter Cushing was the obvious choice for the top-billed part in any British horror film. Discussing Corruption with Eamonn Andrews on television, he remarked that he was looking forward to his next picture; a horror film in modern dress, for a change.
Receiving equal billing was Sue Lloyd, who had previously appeared as Michael Caine's girlfriend in The Ipcress File (1965) and had a recurring role in The Baron (1966). Hartford-Davis would be so impressed with her work on Corruption that he'd present her with an antique cup inscribed, "To my actress of the year, from your corrupted director." At the end of shooting, Cushing presented her with a special script holder. "I did rather well out of that film!" she now laughs. Kate O'Mara, a relative newcomer to film, was cast as Lynn's sister, and Anthony Booth - then popular as Alf Garnett's son-in-law in Til Death Us Do Part (1966) - played groovy photographer Mike.
When making movies, Hartford-Davis apparently considered actor David Lodge his "lucky charm"; a part, therefore, had to be found for him. Lodge remembers: "I said, 'There's nothing in here for me.' He said, 'There's got to be something. I tell you what, what about one of the hippies?' I said, 'They're kids!' - and I was well into my forties. He said, 'We'll make one of them a big idiot with the mental age of about 12. He's retarded.'" So was born Groper, the strongman of Terry's beatnik gang, blindly obedient to leader Georgie.
Saving money where they could, Titan used Isleworth Studios in south-west London, not far from Hartford-Davis's home. Primarily use for making adverts in the year prior to the Corruption shoot only one other film had been made there.
The film's four-week schedule commenced on 10th July 1967, and most scenes were completed quickly. One exception was the discovery of the head in the fridge by Sandy, a female gang member. Actress Alexandra Dane was so shocked by the sight of an apparently decapitated head that she became quite distressed on the first take. The crewmen who had the job of stuffing the head with various offals referred to it as 'the laughing Japanese shot'. Far East audiences enjoyed a lot of gore, apparently.
The finale - in which the laser disposes of most of the leading characters - was achieved by stringing up lengths of wire around the set, which were then lit, and burned brightly where the laser was supposedly striking. Sue Lloyd remembers that the actors had to be wary of their positions if they were to avoid being injured.
Care also had to be taken in the scene in which Groper holds a brandy glass over Lynn's mouth in order to get information out of her. John Lodge remembers being cautious to leave a small gap so she could still take in air. Location shooting took place at Seaford, between London and Brighton. The scene where Lynn lures Terry's husband, Rik, to the edge of the cliff and forces him over was especially arduous for Sue Lloyd: "I suffer from terrible vertigo and that cliff was a sheer drop. I just couldn't do it. I just froze and in the end they had to get a double in. If you look, you never see my face when she pushes him off."
The murder in the train was also shot on location. This disturbing sequence was shot by Newbrook through a fish-eye lens, lending it a delirious quality. Another murder - that of the prostitute in the flat - was shot twice. In the version seen in Scandanavia, South America, and the Far East, a bare-breasted Marianne Morris, replacing the negligee clad Jan Waters in the regular edition, is attacked quite graphically by a manic Cushing. Again, Newbrook used a distorting fish-eye lens in the scene.
Over a year after its completion, the film premiered at London's Metropole on 21st November 1968, but was replaced after a week by Carry On Up the Khyber (1968). On general release from 8th December, Corruption was paired with an Alex Cord spaghetti western, Un minuto per pregare, un instante per morire / Dead or Alive (1968).
David Lodge recalls going to see an early screening of Corruption with Peter Cushing and them both chuckling all the way through. Cushing later remarked: "I felt it was a great idea, but the only thing I felt about the picture was that it was repetitive within itself - and it had to be, I suppose, because of what the story was about ... I think with a little more time it could have been more subtle, but even so it was an incredible success in America."
After filming ended, Peter Cushing went immediately into The Blood Beast Terror (1968) (then known as The Deathshead Vampire) at Goldhawk Studios. Sue Lloyd eventually became a regular on the television soap opera Crossroads (1964 - 1988), and later recreated her Ipcress File role in a new Harry Palmer film shot in Russia, Bullet to Beijing (1997). David Lodge continued to appear in many British films (in The Railway Children (1970), his Bandmaster can be seen wearing Groper's pebble-lensed spectacles).
After two more movies, the partnership of Hartford-Davis and Newbrook broke up. Newbrook formed Glendale Productions, responsible for both Crucible of Terror (1971) and The Asphyx (1973). Robert Hartford-Davis formed World Arts and made two further pictures in England before relocating to Hollywood for two more, and some television. In 1977, he was just starting work on the TV movie Murder at Peyton Place when he died, aged 54, of a massive heart attack