Saturday 22 September 2007

Corruption (1968) Robert Hartford-Davis

Peter Cushing is Sir John Rowan, famous knighted surgeon, and he has a gorgeous young fiancee to boot, Lynn Nolan, played by Sue Lloyd. Unfortunately she takes him to a hip young party held by a fashion photographer who seems to have been a major influence on Austin Powers. In this company Rowan is as out of place as you could possibly imagine and he ends up in an altercation that leads to a photographic lamp falling onto his fiancee's face. She is of course horrifically scarred, and Rowan has to fall back to experimental work to try to save her looks.

This is an old chestnut of a plot that we've been through many times before, but Cushing was always good at breathing new life into old material: just look at his roles in the Hammer horrors, very few of which were actually new stories. Here he combines old Egyptian knowledge with state of the art technology, including computer controlled lasers. And swabs, lots of swabs. He finds a way to force new tissue to grow, through use of the pituitary glands of corpses, but naturally any success is temporary and he has to find a consistent source of pituitary glands to use. As that's not something easily found you can imagine the lengths that he has to go to and the depths to which he has to stoop.

Cushing is great, as he always was, but he's more manic here than usual, playing to the madness that the conflicts of the character calls for. Sue Lyon is fine as Lynn, though it's hard to see why Rowan would be so obsessed by such a vain little bitch and why he would see her past his better looking and more interesting sister Val, played by Kate O'Mara. Val assists Rowan in his work early on, to aid her sister, and however callous it might be, it would have made much more sense for him to have just switched to Val's affections instead.

The whole point of the story has to do with medical ethics and the boundaries that seem so easy and justified to cross have reasons for being boundaries, but while Cushing tries to put some of that depth in, it ends up being a reasonably crude attempt to bring an old story that worked so well in the thirties and the fifties into the new lurid colour generation. There are some good scenes though, and the ending is pretty cool. Otherwise, stick to Mad Love and Eyes Without a Face.

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