Thursday 3 October 2013


Very obviously inspired by Georges Franju’s classic Eyes Without A Face, Robert Hartford-Davis’ 1968 film Corruption (also known as Carnage) stars Peter Cushing as a surgeon named Sir John Rowan. When the movie begins, he and his fiancé, a model named Lynn Nolan (Sue Lloyd), are attending a party held by a photographer (Anthony Booth) friend of hers. It’s full of swinging sixties style beatniks shaking their rumps to the sounds of the day and it all seems to be going well until the photographer asks Lynn to pose for him. As he encourages her to sex it up a bit, she obliges but Rowan isn’t having any of this and before you know it he’s trying to pull the camera out of the photographer’s hands and in the ensuing skirmish, a flood light falls and lands on Lynn’s face.

Once she gets out of the hospital, she’s obviously got some serious burn wounds. Those flood lights run hot, but thankfully Rowan’s skills as a surgeon just might be able to provide a solution. He’s got access to a special laser that he uses on Lynn and before you know it, her face looks as lovely as ever. To celebrate they head to the coast but upon their return it seems that it didn’t work so well after all. As such, Rowan decides a skin graft is in order and so he sets out into the seedy side of town in search of supply which leads him to the apartment of a pretty blonde prostitute. She tells him he’s her last client of the evening and he cuts her up. After that, he does what he does and Lynn’s face is once again back to normal. Her sister, Val (Kate O’Mara), and her fiancé, a doctor named Harris (Noel Trevarthen), start to wonder just what exactly is going on but Rowan is clever and sneaky until Lynn’s face once again needs new flesh to retain its beauty. When the four of them head to the coast to relax, things go from bad to worse when Lynn once again needs new flesh and a young girl named Terry (Wendy Varnals) shows up just in time…

This one has got a bit of a reputation thanks in no small part to Cushing’s displeasure with the picture. This one, particularly in the seedier version presented here (more on that in a minute), is noticeable stronger than pretty much anything else you’re likely to see Peter Cushing in and the uncut murder of the prostitute finds him in a much nastier situation than he probably initially wanted to be. With that said, the movie is quite well made. Cushing’s performance here is a strong one. He’s classy in that way that he always was and you never get the impression that he’s treating the material as if it were beneath him. He shows genuine concern for his (much younger) ladyfriend when she gets injured and he’s also mature and sophisticated enough that we can completely buy him in the role of an ace surgeon. Sue Lloyd also does fine work here. She’s sexy and confident initially but after her injury it becomes increasingly obvious that more than just her skin was damaged. Her psyche starts to show signs of cracking and this in turn spurns Rowan ever forward in his increasingly grisly attempts to make her happy. This provides an interesting dynamic between our two leads. The supporting cast members are also fine but the movie really does belong to Cushing and Lloyd.

The production values here are quite strong. Through the scenes involving the laser, particularly towards the end, make obvious their low budget origin but the cinematography from Peter Newbrook is never less than excellent. The film makes very good use of some particularly bizarre and even unsettling camera angels during the murder set pieces which really play up his manic disposition in the film and succeed in making him look completely deranged. The score from Bill McGuffie is also pretty solid, helping to ramp up tension in a few key scenes. This one may owe more than a passing nod to Franju’s earlier film, but there’s enough about it that is its own to make it more than worth a look, particularly for fans of British horror and specifically Peter Cushing.

Note (mild spoilers): This disc from Grindhouse Releasing includes the uncut theatrical version of the movie in addition to the international version alternate cut of the film. Although the international version runs a little shorter, it does in fact contain quite a bit more nudity and violence. The most obvious example is the scene in which Rowan kills the prostitute. In the theatrical cut she goes to undress and he knifes her. In the international version she takes off her top and gets down to her stockings after which he thrashes her around on the floor a bit, roughs her up, and then slits her throat, her naked breasts fully exposed and slathered in blood. The murder that happens on the train car is also a bit rougher as is the murder on the rocks at the coast.


Corruption is presented on Blu-ray in a fantastic looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Picture quality is excellent here. Film grain is left intact but it’s never overpowering or distracting and outside of a few minor specks here and there, you won’t see much in the way of print damage at all. Colors are reproduced beautifully, you’ll notice this not only in the opening hippie party/photo shoot scene but also once the action moves to the coast and the characters run across the algae covered rocks where the green hues look perfect. Black levels are good, detail is consistently impressive not only in close up shots but medium and long distance shots as well. There are no obvious compression artifacts nor does there appear to be any edge enhancement or noise reduction at all.

The English language DTS-HD Mono mix is also pretty good. There are no alternate language options, closed captioning or subtitles provided on this release. There are a few spots where the high end gets a little shrill but otherwise the audio is perfectly fine for an older mono mix. Dialogue is perfectly easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced. The score sounds good as do the effects.

Extras start off with an audio commentary by UK horror journalist Jonathan Rigby and Peter Cushing biographer David Miller which is the highlight of this release’s supplemental package. These guys know their stuff and have a lot of respect for the material but manage to offer up both a history and an analysis of the picture without ever coming across as too highbrow or dull and scholarly. We get some interesting insight into Cushing’s life and career up to this point and some welcome information about the other cast and crew members involved with the production. They cover the locations, the material and its sometimes controversial nature, and its release history and generally just give a rock solid overview of the movie and its origins. They also talk about Cushing’s personal feelings on the picture, noting that he found it ‘particularly nasty.’ They provide some interesting historical and social context for the movie, noting that it was a very contemporary and brutal film compared to those being made by his contemporaries, they being Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, around the same time. Well paced, incredibly informative and a lot of fun to listen to, this is everything a great commentary should be.

From there, we move on to the interviews starting with a fourteen minute piece with actor Billy Murray who gives a nice introduction to his career and talks about his experiences on the set. Not surprisingly, he has nothing but kind words to say about Cushing (who he stayed in contact with for the rest of Cushing’s life), though he makes a subtle dig at Hartford-Davis for not crediting him with coming up with the film’s ending. He notes that he’s not really a fan of horror films because they scare him, though he does note that he enjoyed making it. He also notes that he wore his own clothes in the film and that the money he was offered wasn’t bad at all. He also describes the director as a bit of a playboy, and how his character and those who accompany him may have been influenced by the Manson Gang. He also notes that he auditioned for A Clockwork Orange and didn’t get the part.

Up next is actress Jan Waters, who plays the prostitute in the film. She talks for nine minutes about the time she spent on the set for this picture, her interactions with her fellow cast members, her impressions of Peter Cushing (who she describes as kind and courteous but also a rather serious man) and Robert Hartford-Davis and her thoughts on the film itself. She notes that it’s an early role, discussing how she had to go off to the studio to meet the director and read for the part, after which she was scheduled. She talks about how the script was being constantly rewritten and about what happens to her character in the film.

Actress Wendy Varnals is also interviewed and she also reminisces for sixteen minutes about working on the picture and shares some stories from the set. She talks about this being the last film that she ever did, discusses her being stopped on the street while attending Oxford and being cast in a play which lead to her acting career getting a bit of a start. She also talks about other occupations she did, primarily as a writer in the sixties where she wrote about fashion and music. She also talks about how she got typecast and which lead to her becoming disenfranchised over this as she was ‘bored to death’ with it. She too describes Cushing as a nice man and that he was very gentlemanly and generous.

Last but not least, Grindhouse have included an interesting seven minute archival audio interview with Peter Cushing conducted at Pinewood Studios in August of 1974. Here he talks about the differences between what he considers horror films versus those that he considers fantasy films – meaning that they’re entertainment films, rather than pictures based on real world atrocities like war pictures. He talks about his wife, he talks about attending screenings of his pictures and going to the cinema for pleasure and offers up some bits and pieces about his career. Always the consummate gentleman, Cushing comes across as a class act here, sharing his thoughts on sex and nudity in cinema as well as his thoughts on more extreme films, where he cites The Exorcist as an example.

We also get a collection of three alternate scenes, the first of which is from the first prostitute murder. This material was shot to allow the distributor to ‘spice up’ the film for international markets and it’s gory, bloody and chock full of boobs. In addition to that we get a very brief additional shot that takes place on the train and an even shorter additional shot from the murder on the rocks that takes place towards the finale.

Rounding out the extras are a few (surprisingly extensive) still galleries featuring all sorts of promotional material gathered up from all over the world, a pair of trailers for the feature, five different TV spots and a pair of radio spots as well. And of course, this wouldn’t be a Grindhouse Releasing disc without a score of trailers for other releases either already available (An American Hippie In Israel) or coming soon. The extras also include the original annotated director's shooting script and production notes which you can skim through on the disc, which is kind of unique and not something that you see included in bonus features too often.

There’s also an Isolated music and effects track that can be selected from the audio set up menu. Menus and chapter stops are included and as this is a combo pack release, the clear Blu-ray case also houses a DVD version of the movie as well. Inside the case is a booklet of liner notes and on the flip side a poster version of the cover art by Rick Melton.

The Final Word:

Corruption is a solid thriller/horror picture that takes a familiar concept and gives it an interesting spin. Though it is very much a product of its time, those with an interest in the swingin’ side of British cinema will get a kick out of all the period detail but the real reason to want to watch this one is for Cushing’s completely unhinged performance. Grindhouse Releasing offers up both versions of the movie in beautiful shape and with a great selection of extra features as well. A ridiculously strong release overall.

Review by HERE

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