Halloween Havoc!: Peter Cushing in CORRUPTION (Columbia 1968)

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Hammer horror icon Peter Cushing is remembered for his two signature roles with the company, the obsessed Baron Frankenstein and the vampire hunter Van Helsing. The actor made many other films as well, but none as bizarre as CORRUPTION. This sleazy slice of 60’s dementia finds Cushing once again a brilliant surgeon, this time in a contemporary setting, in a gore fest that goes off the deep end with a uniquely wild denouement that will leave viewers in  shock.

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Sir John Rowan (Cushing), eminent plastic surgeon,  is engaged to beautiful young model Lynn Nolan, popular fashion face of the day. Despite being tired, John attends a typical swinging 60’s party with her, and it’s clear he’s not comfortable in this milieu. When the host begins taking sexy pics of Lynn, John’s had enough and wants to leave. The host gets belligerent and a fight breaks out between the men, causing a flood lamp to crash down on Lynn. The beauty is now horribly disfigured, and the best efforts of the medical team can’t fix her.

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John researches ways to graft living tissue on Lynn’s face without the long, tedious techniques of the time that may take months, or years, to work. His experiments lead him to remove the pituitary gland from a corpse at the morgue “to control the endocrine system to promote tissue growth”. With the assistance of Lynn’s sister Val, he transplants the gland, and achieves success. Fellow surgeon Steve, who caught John removing the dead woman’s gland, is astonished at the results. However, they’re short-lived, and the scarred tissue begins to grow back to Lynn’s face.

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While Steve and Val get to know each other, John goes hunting for “living tissue”, visiting a prostitute and murdering her. Newspaper headlines scream bloody murder, claiming the killer must have had “medical knowledge”, and sending John into a panic. Lynn suggests they take a seaside vacation to get away from it all. The couple have an idyllic time until the tissue degeneration begins again, and Lynn, playing on John’s guilt, demands he kill again to restore her beauty. They target Terry, a hippie chick with no family ties, and invite her to stay at their cottage. They don’t realize Terry’s been sent there to case the joint for her boyfriend and his gang of thieves. But the young hippie gets bad vibes and splits the scene.

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Now John’s forced to go on the hunt again, and boards a train, tailing a gorgeous blonde. It’s a really shocking scene as we watch Peter Cushing, his hair all crazy, attack and stab the blonde to death, then cut her head off! John brings the head back home just as Terry returns. Seeing the decapitated head sitting on the kitchen table, she runs for her life, and is chased down the beach by John (who sticks the head in the freezer!) and Lynn. John finally catches up to her and kills her in another great scene (highlighted by Bill McGuffie’s jazzy score).

The couple return to the cottage, and are greeted by Terry’s boyfriend and his  mates, demanding to know where Terry is before they rob them.  Suffice it to say things go straight downhill for all concerned in an insane finale that you’ll have to see for yourselves. I won’t spoil it here, but trust me, grindhouse fans will love it!

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Cushing’s upper-crust doctor goes quickly off the deep end, and it’s one of his best performances. Peter Cushing was always an energetic, physical actor, and CORRUPTION puts his talents to good use. Equally good is Sue Lloyd as Lynn, who plays the model willing to have John murder to preserve her beauty to the hilt. Lloyd was known to American audiences for appearing in British TV imports THE SAINT, THE BARON, THE AVENGERS, and THE PERSUADERS, and the films THE IPCRESS FILES and RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER. She also appeared in two 70’s sexploitationers with Joan Collins, THE STUD and THE BITCH. The pairing of Cushing and Lloyd kind of reminded me of a younger version of Boris Karloff and Catherine Lacey in THE SORCERERS , with Lloyd exerting her willpower over Cushing.

CORRUPTION is the magnum opus of eccentric director Robert Hartford-Davis, who was responsible for some truly strange cinema. Hartford-Davis was behind the Hammer-like Gothic horror THE BLACK TORMENT, the surreal rock movie GONKS GO BEAT!, the sexploitation saga SCHOOL FOR UNCLAIMED GIRLS, and the Blaxploitation flicks BLACK GUNN and THE TAKE. But it’s for CORRUPTION he’ll be remembered, thanks to its bloody brutality, deranged ending, and the talents of Peter Cushing and Sue Lloyd. Horror fans need to see this one to truly appreciate its grotesque greatness!

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6 Replies to “Halloween Havoc!: Peter Cushing in CORRUPTION (Columbia 1968)”

  1. I think I’ll put this one on my must see list, haven’t seen a good hammer film in quite a while.
    Although it does seem to remind me of ‘Eyes Without A Face’, which is also a must see and very disturbing. Did you already review ‘Eyes Without A Face’ ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did “Eyes Without A Face” last year during ‘Halloween Havoc!’ season. You’ve got to see “Corruption” if you haven’t already, it’s not a Hammer, but Cushing’s most bizarre film. Well worth seeking out!

      Like

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