aka BEHIND THE SHUTTERS
(Spain - 1973; US release 1975)
Directed by J.A. Bardem. Written by Santiago Moncada. Cast: Jean Seberg, Marisol, Barry Stokes, Perla Cristal, Rudy Gaebel, Gerard Tichy, Alicia Altabella, Vidal Molina, Maria Bardem, Juan Bardem, Miguel Bardem, Gustavo Re. (R, 113 mins)
A Holy Grail of sorts for Eurocult aficionados, the 1973 Spanish thriller THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER has long been a staple of the bootleg circuit in editions that have been cropped and chopped and, at best, semi-watchable. Vinegar Syndrome has just released a fully-restored, uncut version on Blu-ray, in its original 2.35:1 widescreen (because physical media is dead), and in an era where obscurities tend to be revered and hailed as lost classics simply because they've been virtually impossible to see for so long, this is an insidious and quietly unsettling little gem that's been waiting patiently to be rediscovered and is thus far the top Blu-ray resurrection of 2019. What makes its chilling effectiveness all the more surprising is that director Juan Antonio Bardem (Javier's uncle) was a filmmaker known more for exploring social and political concerns in Spanish neo-realist works like 1955's DEATH OF A CYCLIST and 1956's MAIN STREET, films that earned him a spot on the shit list of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. An avowed communist whose early films offered blistering critiques of Spain's politics and bourgeois hypocrisy, Bardem had no ties to or demonstrable affinity for the horror genre aside from stepping in to complete the final shots and post-production of 1973's A BELL FROM HELL when the director, his friend Claudio Guerin, died tragically in an on-set accident when he fell from the film's bell tower on the last day of shooting. But make no mistake, Bardem has a horror master's touch with THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER, showing off an palpable verve and panache with at least two terrifying and unforgettable sequences that are so audaciously well-crafted that it's a regretful missed opportunity that he never hopped on the '70s giallo bandwagon or teamed with someone like Paul Naschy, the face of Spanish horror during that period.
singer in her teen years) after they were abandoned by Chris' father a year earlier. While Ruth hides mail and rants that "Men don't love...they possess, they injure, they invade," Chris is bitter and resentful and blames Ruth for driving her father away. The increasingly fragile, unstable Chris also has a paralyzing fear of rain and running water after being raped in a locker room shower shortly after her father left. Ruth's comforting of Chris involves leering looks and lingering kisses that aren't in any way maternal, and that's only the beginning of the perverse dysfunction that's going on. Following a violent storm, Ruth finds drifter Barney Webster (British actor Barry Stokes, later to play a similar role but as a disguised alien in Norman J. Warren's PREY), with only a backpack and a guitar, sleeping nude in the barn. While Chris is out horseback-riding with local trainer Lewis (Rudy Gaebel), sex-starved Ruth makes breakfast for Barney and the pair end up in bed under the stipulation that he leaves before Chris returns home. That only encourages Barney to stick around (Ruth: "You've had your breakfast, now get out!" Barney: "How could I leave after something as tasty as that?"), and before long, he's a guest in the house and in Ruth's bed, much to Chris' disgust. That is, until Barney makes a play for her as well, which turns an already precarious situation into a powderkeg of jealousy and sexual intrigue, with Chris sneering "He's never been in my room...yet."
farmhouse massacre rivaling anything in the unforgettable, stomach-knotting last half hour of Sergio Martino's 1974 classic TORSO and standing up to any jump-from-your-seat kill in the '80s slasher pantheon (even Waldo de los Rios' score seems to prefigure FRIDAY THE 13TH's Harry Manfredini at times). The killer decked out in a long, hooded black raincoat and wiping out the family with a sickle should've been an iconic horror image long before I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER co-opted it for the post-SCREAM craze over two decades later. THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER was relegated to US drive-ins and grindhouses by the one-and-done "Chris Releasing" (likely a dubious tax scam) in 1975, and they tried launching it again a year later with the more lurid title BEHIND THE SHUTTERS. The SHUTTERS title was used again when the short-lived Analysis re-released it in November 1979 to capitalize on the death of star Seberg, the Iowa-born Otto Preminger ingenue who starred in 1957's SAINT JOAN before heading to Europe, where she became an iconic figure in the French New Wave with Jean-Luc Godard's BREATHLESS (1960).
|Jean Seberg (1938-1979)