Quick recap: A journalist pretends to be insane so that he can solve the murder of a patient in a psychiatric ward.
Fun (?) fact: Because he had a small budget, director Samuel Fuller hired little people to hang out in the background of the hall to produce a greater sense of depth for the audience.
My thoughts: Before Shock Corridor, someone could’ve presented me with a movie about being in a mental institution and I would be all over it. So many directions to go! So many points to make! So many complex yet endearing characters! But now I know better, thanks to this movie. See, this is why we can’t have nice things.
The film starts with Johnny Barrett rehearsing his story to a psychiatrist to ensure that the police take him seriously and lock him up in this place. Before I go any further, I want you to imagine what story you would come up with in that situation, knowing that you would be subjected to any kind of technique to cure you and this would most likely stay on your criminal record. What did Barrett and his boss come up with? Incest, of course! And not just incest, because apparently that isn’t crazy enough. Let’s add in a hair fetish! It’s one thing to want to go full into the role and all, but that’s taking it a little too far, I think. Oh, and to make it extra creepy, they added in Barrett’s girlfriend to play the sister. I’ll let you in on how that turned out later on. Hint: not well.
But, you might be saying, Barrett was trying to solve a murder! He had to concoct a crazy story to make sure he got in and stayed in. I suppose that’s true, although we as the audience never meet who was murdered or see the murderer or get any hint that there is still a threat. Granted, the mental institution does some crazy stuff, but wasn’t that par for the course in the 50s and 60s? By the time the murderer is revealed, I realized that I had never been invested to being with.
So, what to take from this movie? Is it that the insane deserve a voice and a sympathetic ear? No, because the characters themselves are about as stereotypically insane as you can get: A man who sings opera in the middle of the night, a guy who things he is a general in the Civil War and my personal favorite, the black guy whose racist against black guys. Each person shows flashes of sanity at some point, but then retreat back into their world and are of little help in solving the murder. And what does Barrett gain from all of this? He goes insane, too! Turns out, it might not have been the best idea to turn your girlfriend into your sister, buddy. After getting electroshock therapy and intensive counseling sessions to cure him of wanting to molest his sister, Barrett wants nothing to do with his girlfriend.
Final review: 2/5
Up next: The 39 Steps