We’ve looked at the oeuvre of director Robert Hartford-Davis before: he’s a bit of a sleaze meister. ‘Corruption’ (1968) is the film in which Hartford-Davis falls into the muck and mire again but, this time, as he stumbles, clutches at the sleeve of Peter Cushing and dumps him in the shit as well.
Cushing plays Sir John Rowan, a brilliant and eminent surgeon: dedicated, hard-working, precise, correct at all times. Well, not quite all the time, as crafty Sir John has a dolly bird girlfriend and a wardrobe full of natty neckerchiefs to show that’s he’s not quite the cube we thought he was. It’s actually quite shocking to see the fifty five year old Peter Cushing ardently pressing his dessicated lips against his much younger love interest Lyn (Sue Lloyd) and pestering her for car sex, but it gets a lot worse and doesn’t get any better.
Lyn is fond of Sir John but sees him as a safe bet: he’ll provide security and status whilst she continues her groovy model lifestyle. Unfortunately, Sir John gets into a jealous rage at a swinging party and, during a violent tussle with Anthony Booth (who wouldn’t want to smack him?) a halogen lamp falls onto Lyn and before you can say ‘does anyone smell bacon?’ her pretty face and fabulous career are ruined.
Sir John isn’t the sort of man to let a little setback like a sizzled face put him off, however, and spurred on by an increasingly unhinged Lyn he packs in his job and takes to experimenting with pituitary glands to effect tissue regeneration. At first he is successful with the glands from dead women but the rejuvenating effects are temporary and it is with horror that he realises he must kill to get the living tissue required for a long term solution…
And kill he does. In a prostitute’s parlour, in a train carriage, on a beach as the tide comes in. In fact, he can’t stop killing and we are presented with the dismal spectacle of the usually immaculate Cushing, his eyes darting guiltily from side to side, sweating and slashing and descending into hell. It’s actually pretty unpleasant.
The film ends almost on a non-sequiter as a sinister group of hippies (including a gurning David Lodge with stick on sideburns) break into Sir John and Lyn’s holiday home and proceed to terrorise them in scenes that seem taken from another film entirely but, deus ex machina like, swiftly navigate the narrative to a violent end as, yes, there’s a laser scalpel in the spare room that goes out of control and everybody, yes, everybody, is sliced, diced and left a smouldering corpse. The End.
Cushing tries his best here but, ultimately, just like Sir John, all his huffing, puffing and utter degradation just leads to a humiliating loss of face. Hartford-Davis didn’t know any better, of course, and watching this and the films he made later in his career, it becomes apparent that he didn’t want to know any better. Billed as a film to which women would not be admitted unless accompanied by a man, even the promotional campaign is vintage Hartford-Davis: it’s crass, sensational, misogynistic and it doesn’t make any sense…