A respected surgeon disfigures his beautiful model wife in an accident and resolves to retore her beauty. He develops a technique which involves the use of fluid from the pituitary gland and embarks on a killing spree to obtain more of the fluid. As events spin more and more out of control, carnage ensues and the dead bodies start piling up…

Corruption is easily one of the sleaziest British horror films of the sixties and until recently had been pretty hard to find on dvd. To anyone more used to Peter Cushing’s classier Hammer and Amicus roles his portrayal of a misguided surgeon gradually losing his mind and becoming a psychotic killer will come as a bit of a shock. What’s interesting about the character of Sir John Rowan is his gradual descent into madness and the emotional layers that are slowly peeled away like an onion skin. He does what he does due to a mixture of love and guilt; intense, overwhelming love for his wife and guilt derived from the fact that it was his jealousy that partly caused the accident leaving his wife’s face hideously scarred. But there is also the question of why he loves his wife so much, as their marriage is curiously devoid of any real passion and seems to be more of a mutually beneficial arrangement. As an older man, Sir John seems to view his wife Lynn as a possession or trophy as they certainly don’t seem to have much in common. From her perspective, Lynn acknowledges that her looks won’t last forever and seems more attracted to Sir John for the wealth and security the marriage brings rather than any deep lust or love.

As well as Cushing’s disturbing and multi-layered performance, kudos must also go to his co-star Sue Lloyd (of soap opera Crossroads fame!) as her character devolves from a poised, sexy and confident woman to an equally psychotic murderess, urging her husband on to commit ever more hideous deeds. There is also solid support from a young Kate O’Mara as Lynn’s younger sister Val and Wendy Varnals as Terry, a young girl who becomes embroiled in the Rowan’s lives and is herself more than she initially appears…

As already mentioned, there is a sleaziness about Corruption which permeates the film. The whole affair often has more in common with sixties Herschell Gordon Lewis productions and later seventies exploitation like Night Train Murders or House on the Edge of the Park than the cosy classic horror of Hammer and its other British contemporaries. In fact, there are two completely different versions of the scene where Sir Rowan murders a prostitute, filmed with a different actress and altered dialogue, which changes the whole mood of the scene. In the most commonly seen UK version, the prostitute is played by Jan Waters as a fairly sympathetic character and Cushing’s character is shown as reluctant to carry out the murder. In the European version, the prostitute is not only topless (!) but is shown as an aggressive, money-grabbing little tramp and the murder is shown in all its gory glory culminating in Cushing sawing the head off her eviscerated corpse.

Corruption, in whatever version you end up viewing it, is a grimy, sweaty anomaly which is incredibly entertaining. It boasts a combination of good acting, a melodramatic storyline and an underlying feeling of insanity both in the characters and possibly the filmmakers themselves! An under-appreciated exploitation joyride which is worthy of your time and is ripe for fresh evaluation from horror film fans.

Review by Richard Gladman

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