Corruption (1968) poster

Corruption (1968)


UK. 1968.


Director – Robert Hartford-Davies, Screenplay – Derek Ford & Donald Ford, Producer/Photography – Peter Newbrook, Music – Bill McGuffie, Special Effects – Michael Albrechtsen, Production Design – Bruce Grimes. Production Company – The Oakshire Company Ltd/Titan International Productions.


Peter Cushing (Sir John Rowan), Sue Lloyd (Lynn Nolan), Noel Trevarthen (Steve Harris), Kate O’Mara (Val Nolan), Anthony Booth (Mike Orme), Phillip Manikum (Georgie), Wendy Varnals (Terry), David Lodge (Groper), Jan Waters (Girl in Flat), Vanessa Howard (Kate), Billy Murray (Rik), Alexandra Dane (Sandy)


Sir John Rowan, a top surgeon in London, is engaged to the younger fashion model Lynn Nolan. They attend a party – Sir John wants to leave but Lynn wants to stay and pose for photographer Mike Orme. Sir John and Mike fight, causing one of the studio lamps to fall and burn Lynn’s face. She is rushed to surgery but is left with a bad scar that fills the right side of her face. Sir John puts all his effort into researching a solution. Using glands taken from a cadaver and advanced laser technology he has created, he is able to restore her face. They depart on holiday but are forced to return ahead of time when Lynn’s face starts to revert. Sir John realises that the only hope is to use glands from a living person and so goes and kills a prostitute. As they depart for his cottage in Seaford, Lynn’s face again starts degenerating and she pushes Sir John to kill again.

The Anglo-Horror Cycle was huge from the late 1950s through to the early 1970s. This had been created by Hammer Films who had enormous success with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958), both of which made stars out of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Hammer made a sizeable output of Dracula, Frankenstein films and psycho-thrillers, along with assorted other horror films. There were a number of other studios and filmmakers that sought to emulate the trend, most successfully Amicus Films.

Director Robert Hartford-Davies (1923-77) had a small career in this period during which he made several independent films of the Anglo-Horror Cycle. These include the Gothic horror The Black Torment (1964) and the psycho film The Fiend/Beware My Brethren (1971), as well as the mind-boggling sf/pop music film Gonks Go Beat (1965). He is best known for the fascinating psychological vampire film Incense for the Damned/Bloodsuckers (1969), which also starred Peter Cushing. Elsewhere, Hartford-Davies dallied between various exploitation genres, including gritty crime dramas – Crosstrap (1962); sexploitation – the proto-Women in Prison film The Smashing Bird I Used to Know/School for Unclaimed Girls (1969); and Blaxploitation – Black Gunn (1972) and The Take (1974) – without ever making anything that ever stood out.

The French film Eyes Without a Face (1959) has become a genre classic. In the film, surgeon Pierre Brasseur roams Paris abducting women to graft their faces onto his disfigured daughter. It produced a number of copies such as Atom Age Vampire (1960), Circus of Horrors (1960), Jesus Franco’s The Awful Dr Orloff (1962), which spawned a number of sequels, and Mansion of the Doomed (1976), even as far afield as the Japanese arthouse film The Face of Another (1966) and Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In (2011). (For a more detailed listing see Mad Surgeon Films).

Peter Cushing in Corruption (1968)
Peter Cushing prepares to conduct surgery by methods that may not be approved by the NHS

Corruption is Eyes Without a Face having been fed through the Anglo-Horror film. The role of the surgeon is cast with Anglo-horror mainstay Peter Cushing. By this point in his career, Cushing had fallen into roles cast as a genial, kind-hearted or well-meaning scientist. As a result, his surgeon comes across as the most sympathetic in any of these mad surgeon films. In fact, it is his wife (Sue Lloyd) who is the far more ruthless and calculating, pushing him to kill further victims, while Cushing expresses moral qualms about doing so.

I don’t think that Corruption works particularly well. Its rehashing of the Eyes Without a Face plot works fairly stolidly, while the final act adds a group of hooligans to the mix that takes the story in a different direction altogether. The climax has Cushing’s surgical laser activated, going amok and burning the cottage down – in effect acting as the equivalent of the self-destruct switch in a mad scientist’s laboratory. The film also has a strange jazz score that often seems oddly out of place in terms of the scenes it is placed in.

Corruption exists in cut and uncut versions. In the original print, the prostitute that Peter Cushing kills was played by a topless Marianne Morris, but the British censor demanded this be cut and so the scene was reshot with Jan Waters who wears a negligee throughout the scene. The original version was seen internationally. However, the version released to dvd by Grindhouse Releasing in 2013 (seen here) is the one with the replacement footage.

Trailer here

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