Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor is a B-movie starring Peter Breck as a journalist who attempts to get to the bottom of an unsolved murder by getting himself committed to the insane asylum where the murder took place. It’s a very interesting premise, played out with expected creativity (as oxymoronic as that might sound) through the full usage of the creative effects of the medium of film. All the tricky effects wizardry is here, all to elucidate what our main character witnesses and experiences for himself.
Quite quickly after getting himself incarcerated, Breck’s character begins experiencing hallucinations and sensory phenomena. He is warned before going into his endeavor that “their craziness might rub off on [him]”, and indeed, that is exactly what seems to be happening. He bonds with various inmates, all while conducting his investigations, and slowly the madhouse begins to get the better of him. The filmmaking is simple enough, as most B movies tend to be just to fill the limited quota. It’s when Breck’s character experiences his hallucinations that the film gets very creative, toying with the viewer’s perceptions just as easily as it does our lead. The film, being set in a mental hospital (more specifically a Hollywoodized mental hospital), has its fair share of, um characters about it, and everyone goes about in various incongruous manners acting crazy mostly for the camera, which can wear thin after a while. Thankfully, the main character’s slow lapse into dementia himself somehow manages to keep the film grounded, which indeed seems to be contrary to itself.
This is a very trippy film, as it should be expected to be, but you should still be aware of how heady this can get at times. This is a B movie, all right, and it falls into many of the traps that befall B movies, such as overacting and noticeable production quality lapses, which in all fairness would take a few points off the film just on a technical scale. Still, like Detour, this manages to be entertaining even through the technical foibles, mostly thanks to its surprisingly intriguing premise, which is utilized to its fullest extent. I liked it, and I hope you’ll give it a chance to like it as well.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10