January 2, 2017

Corruption (1968)

Corruption (1968) continued.

Accompanied by an unfortunate funky soundtrack resembling a cross between modern jazz and James Last we see Sir John Rowan hard at work in his study which doubles as a laboratory. He announces to Val that he may have some good news for Lynn. He is then seen taking a cage containing a guinea pig in to Lynn’s room, where she is still confined. He explains to her that he reproduced her exact injuries on the guinea pig and that by using an entirely new process has restored the animal to it original state. With some hope returning to her voice Lynn asks him if the same process will work on her, he tells her it will, he is sure of it. This is the point where medical ethics go out of the window and a brilliant but lonely man sets in motion a series of desperate actions that he hopes will rectify the damage his jealousy has caused.

Sir John Rowan makes his way to the hospital where he works and then to the morgue. He informs the attendant that the woman lying dead on the slab was a patient of his and although he is not scheduled to perform the post mortem he is going to examine her body. There is nothing written down though and the attendant is a little hesitant to agree. When however Sir John assures him that the other doctor knows about it he gives way and leaves him on his own in the morgue. Mad doctor syndrome is now in full swing as the aberrant clinician removes the pituitary gland from the cadaver. Dr Steve Harris who was to have performed the post mortem now arrives and confronts him. The two are personal friends. He lambastes him for, “Breaking every known rule of ethics.” There are shades here of Cushing’s previous scientific colleagues in the Hammer Frankenstein films, the ones who would refuse to go that extra mile in to uncharted territory, the sensible restraining influence that was always listened to but ultimately ignored.

Back at the flat John prepares a special injection made from the stolen pituitary gland. He is assisted by a very nervous Val Nolan fully kitted out in green operating theatre garb. Lynn Nolan lies sedated on the operating table in front of them. After injecting the preparation directly in to the damaged side of Lynn’s face, he then removes the dead tissue with a computer controlled laser beam. Following this radical new treatment Lynn’s face is again heavily bandaged and the patient returned to bed.

Later at a dinner party in the flat Val welcomes Steve Harris their guest. He mentions to Val that John was very mysterious on the phone and then enquires after Lynn. A smiling Val replies, “You’ll see.” John appears and greets Steve telling him he was glad he could come as he can see the new Lynn. Lynn then appears and to Steve’s astonishment her severe scarring has entirely disappeared and her face is fully restored to her previous beauty. Steve remarks, “It could be the skin of a new child.” When the two men are alone Steve warns John saying, “You took one hell of a risk John. We don’t know enough about the endocrine system yet.” John Rowan is happy though, his fiancées beauty is restored and he feels he has made up for the damage caused by his jealousy. Steve though is unsure about the procedure and wonders if the tissue regeneration will be permanent. John wants to hear none of this; he is content that he has Lynn back as she used to be. He decides to take her on a cruise to help her forget the trauma she has been through.

While Lynn and John are sailing around the Caribbean, Steve and Val have started to get a little closer to each other. After a night on the town they arrive back at Johns flat to find a cable waiting. Lynn and John have had to cut their holiday short and are flying home early. The next day a London taxi arrives outside the flat, the car door opens and Lynn emerges wearing a large hat with a veil, she rushes in to the building brushing straight past her sister ignoring her greeting and retreats to the privacy of her room. Val follows her and asks what’s wrong. Lynn pulls back the Veil, revealing that the scar tissue has returned and that this time it is much worse. The woman is distraught and is later seen sitting at her dressing table looking with disgust at her disfigured face in a small hand mirror. She lowers the hand mirror only to see herself again in the three-part mirror on her dressing table. In a fit of anger and despair she smashes the larger mirror to pieces with the smaller one and then desperate to not view the hideous scars again she also smashes to pieces a full length, dressing mirror in the corner of the room. Lynn is used to seeing her beauty reflected back to her, either in sumptuous photographic portraits or in the admiring glances of others. This once attractive but also very vain woman no longer wishes to see her own image echoed back to her in any form. For Lynn her physical appearance was everything and now that she has lost that for a cruel second time she feels that she has lost everything. John Rowan tries to comfort the near suicidal Lynn who pleads with him to do anything he can to help her. Driven as previously by his guilt and his desperate need for Lynn’s love he resolves to help her again. This couple are not really in love which each other, but with themselves. Lynn Nolan’s narcissistic vanity causes her to become a desperate, immoral neurotic when she is robbed of her good looks. John Rowan will do anything to keep his prospective wife happy, even if it means breaking the law and sacrificing his brilliant though lonely career as an eminent and respected surgeon. His final words to Lynn in this scene are, “Last time I used dead tissue, this time it must be living human tissue.”

There now follows a scene for which the film has gained a degree of notoriety, not so much for what takes place but for the fact that Peter Cushing is the actor who does it. John Rowan is seen wandering through a seedy part of London at night carrying a black doctor’s bag. He approaches the entrance to a block of flats and presses one of the many buzzers on the side of the door. A woman’s voice retorts through the tinny loudspeaker, “Number two on the first floor, come on up.” A nervous Cushing is ushered in to the woman’s flat; she explains that the special service she offers will cost a fiver. Cushing looks around the seedy flat and is visibly disgusted at where he finds himself. On top of the wardrobe, on the bed and indeed all around the room a collection of dolls and teddy bears can be seen. The prostitute (Jan Waters) is portrayed in the usual clichéd way typical of British filmmakers of the time, being a mixture of the ‘How are you love’, school of loose women portrayal and the, ‘well you are a cheeky boy’, carry on style. To some extent this nullifies the savagery of what happens next (which is probably what it is intended to do), we have to rely on the continental version of this scene to fully explore the barbarity of what takes place. In the English release version, John Rowan is seen having second thoughts and decides to leave but the prostitute wraps her arms around him and tries to get his him interested in tasting her wares. Revolted by her cheap advances he stabs her repeatedly with his surgeon’s knife; she falls to the floor dying, blood oozing through the wound in her dressing gown. As she lies dying on the floor John Rowan excises her head from her body with his knife and after wrapping it in see-through plastic deposits it in his bag. The stabbing, the blood and the decapitation are more hinted at than directly shown, with the graphic violence occurring off camera.

Cushing’s obsessed character has now placed himself beyond the niceties of everyday morality and has chosen to venture in to dark and devilish areas where the restraints of civilised behaviour do not apply. The violence and sleaze are intimated at in this scene, rather than being blatantly explored. There are not the same restraints though in the version of this scene shot for Continental distribution. It begins in the same way but for starters the women who greets Cushing is a different actress and what she does and what he does to her is more graphic both sexually and in terms of physical violence. Many Cushing fans find it difficult to equate the quiet dignified gentleman they know this much respected man to have been, with what happens in this other version, but in a way it is much more representative of the moral degeneration of the character. The palpable sleaze of the situation and the grossness of the act perpetrated on the woman are not pleasant to watch but are less irritating than the coy, uncertain approach taken in the English release version. After greeting him at the same door, the woman wearing a dressing gown beckons him in to the same room. Telling him to make himself at home she walks across to her bathroom. Like the British version the room is full of children’s dolls and teddy bears, but here the lighting is darker and more sinister. As she removes her dressing gown and then her bra revealing her breasts, Cushing’s increasingly uncomfortable character can be seen shifting restlessly in the background. After applying perfume to her body, the semi naked women returns to the room and finds Cushing putting his coat on having changed his mind. At this point she becomes angry and demands payment. Wandering across to Cushing’s black bag she opens it hoping to find some financial recompense. Instead she finds the surgeon’s knife which she threatens Cushing with and demands money. There now follows a protracted struggle in which one heck of a fight between the two takes place. He eventually retrieves the dagger from her and finally stabs her many times in the stomach and chest. A distraught Cushing is then viewed dragging his hands over her blood-spattered breasts. With a surgeon’s precision and in full view of the camera he slices through her neck removing her head in a scene that is by no means hurried. As he leaves the room with the woman’s head in his bag, the camera wanders back to the bed where a dolls body lies, its head lying separate from its body.

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About Mark Emery

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