Film / Shock Corridor

1963 drama directed by Samuel Fuller.

Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck), an ambitious journalist, is determined to win a Pulitzer Prize by solving a murder committed in a lunatic asylum and witnessed only by three inmates, from whom the police have been unable to extract the information. With the connivance of a psychiatrist, and the reluctant help of his girlfriend Cathy (Constance Towers), he succeeds in having himself declared insane and sent to the asylum. There he slowly tracks down and interviews the witnesses - but things are stranger than they seem ...


This film provides examples of:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Johnny wanted to solve the mystery of the murder at the asylum and get to the bottom of the case. To do so he enters as a mental patient and finally goes insane for good.
  • Bedlam House: The asylum has this dysfunctional feel to it.
  • Bittersweet Ending / Downer Ending: Johnny solves the mystery, the murderer is caught, and Johnny gets his Pulitzer. But his obsession leads to his mentally snapping—he is now catatonic, and a patient at the asylum. And there seems to be no hope for Cathy reconciling with him.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Trent, as a self-proclaimed black Klansman.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Johnny's speaking impairment in critical situations as a result of the electroshock therapy.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Trent is performing one of these.
  • Central Theme: America is a madhouse!
  • Create Your Own Villain: All the inmates in the asylum are driven mad as a result of some failing in American society, whether it's the Red Scare and Confederate Lost Cause, rampant bigotry, nuclear weapons and finally tabloid journalism and obsession with fame.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. Johnny is traumatized by the nymphomaniacs' advances.
  • Driven to Madness: The Movie.
  • Electric Torture: The electroshock treatment Johnny is been given.
  • Enthralling Siren: The nymphomaniacs use the songs "My Bonnie" and "Java Jive" as siren songs.
  • Fanservice: Cathy's song number in a skimpy Vegas show-girl outfit.
  • Fat Best Friend: The gigantic opera singer instantly befriends Johnny.
  • Flipping the Table: Happens during the dispute at the canteen.
  • Genius Ditz: Dr. Boden, a brilliant nuclear scientist, has regressed to the mental level of a six-year old, spending his time drawing crude childish pictures and playing hide-and-go-seek.
  • Go Among Mad People: Johnny.
  • Inner Monologue: Johnny's thoughts are the main narrative.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Averted in the case of Boden and Stuart and some of the other inmates who are harmless, but it's certainly true of Trent, the nymphomaniacs and Johnny.
  • Internalized Categorism: Trent has experienced so much bigotry that he starts mouthing them and even sports a Ku Klux Klan outfit despite being African-American.
  • Iris Out: The movie starts with an Iris-In effect on the long asylum corridor.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Cathy's crazy love for Johnny.
  • Napoleon Delusion: Stuart believes that he's American Civil War general J. E. B. Stuart.
  • Orderlies Are Creeps: Wilkes anyway.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Who! Killed! Sloan! (Johnny pounding Wilkes' head on the floor)
  • Punishment Box: Johnny is threatened by the warden to receive this treatment.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In the opening scene, Cathy is giving one of these to Johnny concerning his obsession.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The whole movie, with it's over-the-top satire is filled with this. The Trent episode is especially bold.
  • Room Full of Crazy: A mild version with the drawings in the Nympho ward.
  • Sanity Slippage: Johnny's losing it towards the end, becoming a legit inmate of the asylum.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Pagliacci views everything as an opera, often imitating the movements of an orchestral conductor around the other inmates. When Johnny screams during a panic attack, Pagliacci mistakes it for a sour note.
  • Shout-Out: John Zorn's album Radio has a track called "Shock Corridor".
  • Society Is to Blame: All the inmates in the asylum are driven mad by certain ugly facets of American society.
  • Splash of Color: While the movie is produced in black and white, the nightmares/visions of the characters are depicted in color. This is actually footage Fuller shot for a planned adventure film in Brazil's Karaja community, that ultimately got cancelled.
  • Talkative Loon: Trent in particular.
  • Where Da White Women At?: Trent mentions this twice in his hate speeches.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Johnny, trying to convince the shrink of his sanity.

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