Shock Corridor (1963)

shock corridor poster 1963 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Campy fun

Story is pretty cliche by today's standards

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Shock Corridor

Studio:  Allied Artist Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  September 11, 1963

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

shock corridor johnny trent hari rhodes peter breck

I must convince them that I’m one of them.

The murder of a patient in an asylum has led journalist Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) to a dangerous assignment that he thinks could win him the Pulitzer Prize.  Going undercover with the help of girlfriend Cathy (Constance Towers), his editor Swanson (Bill Zuckert), and a psychiatrist Dr. Fong (Philip Ahn), Johnny is posing as insane to question three patients:  Stuart (James Best), Trent (Hari Rhodes), and Boden (Gene Evans).  Johnny is going to have to fight to gain their trust, and as he’s pushed harder and harder, Johnny might reach the breaking point before he finds the truth.

Directed by Sam Fuller, Shock Corridor is a murder-mystery melodrama.  The movie was released to positive reviews and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1996.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #19).

shock corridor raining scene peter breck johnny barrett

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head!

Shock Corridor was marketed as an exploitation film and rereleased with Fuller’s follow up The Naked Kiss.  Both films have a kind of “shock” value to them that I’m sure felt different at the time.  While The Naked Kiss has the neo-noir vibe to it, Shock Corridor feels at times it tries a bit too hard to be edgy.

The story definitely had edge in the 1960s.  The look at psychiatry alone was something new that had been done in things like Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1962, and this feels like it spins out of that (though it was planned earlier).  You have characters dealing with current social issues like Trent who was forced into integration, Boden who was shattered by his part in the creation of the atomic bomb, and Stuart who was angry with his country.  It is the framework story that is over-the-top and a bit too campy at times…including the ending which feels like a bad Twilight Zone twist.

Peter Breck does a good job being pushed to the edge.  It is a tough role with events getting more and more tense, and Breck must continue to elevate himself.  The movie also does well with its three supporting “crazies” played by James Best, Hari Rhodes, and Gene Evans.  Constance Towers also gives a strong performance as Breck’s girlfriend who has to masquerade as his sister to keep his story going.

shock corridor ending johnny barrett peter breck

I’m CRAZY!!!

The movie is aided by great visuals.  The “corridor” is a like a fun house presentation (Fuller hired little people to make it look like it extended further) and the black-and-white movie sometimes goes color with dream sequences.  The movie also features a great moment where Breck is pushed over the edge and “rain” begins to flood the corridor.  It is a very set based film, but it is effective in the use of the sets.

Shock Corridor is a fun film that probably has lost some of its drama over the years.  The film was originally planned for the 1940s with Fritz Lang (which would have been a really experimental film at the time), but the movie probably was better served by being in the 1960s.  It’s over the top and a visual feast at point, but Shock Corridor is worth seeking out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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