Of the old guard horror icons, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Vincent Price, none is perhaps more enjoyable to watch in a role of villainy than Cushing. Of course, Lee was a fantastic Dracula and Price brings a delectable campery to his villains, but its Cushing who perhaps delivers the best surprises in roles of the darker variety since he so rarely played them.
In Corruption, directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, Cushing plays Sir John Rowan, a respected London surgeon. After a freak accident leaves his girlfriend scarred for life, Rowan begins experimenting with pituitary glands to rejuvenate her looks. Only issue is that the procedure needs constant upkeep and there’s only so many bodies in the morgue.
From the opening scenes it’s a strange film, possibly the strangest, on Cushing’s sizeable CV. Out of place as a flirtatious professional in the heart of swinging 60s London, Cushing is at odds with a fun-loving carefree zeitgeist. His brand of buttoned-down professionalism, well-spoken, tidy, and old even when he was young, works well for this film. Within minutes he’s shocked by his girlfriend’s willingness to pose raunchily for a David Bailey type photographer. The ensuing squabble topples a light rig that burns her face and suddenly that passion and professionalism become dangerous tools.
Essentially, Corruption is a British B-Movie adaptation of Eyes Without a Face. Cushing is incredible, as you would expect, as a man so dedicated to correcting his mistakes it turns him to murder. As the crimes of passion become more regular, Cushing is dab-hand at capturing the lazy-eyed madness of a crumbling moral compas. Sue Lloyd is superb as his manipulative partner, a woman so desperate to reclaim her beauty that she has no issues pushing Cushing to murder.
Corruption isn’t exactly the highlight of Cushing’s career, but it’s got enough oddness to keep itself interesting. There’s a terrific train sequence with Cushing’s mad surgeon attacking a woman between stations, the manic jazz soundtrack, a face-off with a squad of perverse beatniks, and a finale set piece where a surgical laser goes haywire and tears up Rowan’s seaside cottage. For all its charms, Corruption is still only worthy of checking out if you are a consummate Cushing fan.
Dir. Robert Hartford-Davis
Stars. Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Kate Mara, Noel Trevarthen, Billy Murray