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Shock Corridor: The Criterion Collection

It's not very surprising that a film from 1963 would take an antiquated view of the mentally ill, but it is a shock that a film from quirky, tough-guy director Sam Fuller would be so dull. Peter Breck (who looks a lot like Alec Baldwin) stars as a newspaper reporter bent on winning the Pulitzer by conning the system and being institutionalized in the crazy house. He claims he's eager to solve a murder there, but his stripper girlfriend (Constance Towers) knows his ego has taken over, and she warns him that the experience will drive him crazy for real. In typical movie fashion, this nuthouse is packed full of yelping loonies, each vying for an Oscar for Loudest Insane Person. Breck singles out the three patients who witnessed the murder and gleans clues by humoring their lunacy -- which they each suddenly snap out of after a long monologue, only to revert just before revealing the killer's identity. These repetitive scenes are the most tedious, merely rambling, overacted speeches. It doesn't help that the murder is so peripheral to the plot that you forget about it when Breck is embellishing his own faux-psychosis. There are small glimmers of the Fulleresque weirdness that marks his masterpiece The Naked Kiss, but not enough to sustain this exercise in inevitable endings. That's right: he really does go crazy at the end. We're lucky not to follow him, after this maddening tale. Criterion's 1.85:1 transfer of this well-shot black and white film is good despite some unfortunate sporadic damage to the source print. In 1.0 Dolby Digital. Trailer, keep case.

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