Thursday, March 24, 2011

Theater Thursday: Shock Corridor

Its Theater Thursday so you know the rules. More than likely whatever I talk about in this post will more than likely have spoilers in it. Tread accordingly.

(The movie I'm about to talk about could hit a lot of buttons. There's talk of incest, mention of rape, an attempted gang rape, an act of racial violence, and ways of addressing and talking about mental health issues that may be offensive to some. Tread accordingly.)

Okay its been a while I know but its just that I until a few weeks ago I hadn't watched much of anything that I wanted to talk about.

You ever cross paths with Daisy Deadhead? She's good people. A few months ago she recommended a movie called Summer of '42. I saw it and did a post on it. At some point while talking to her she mentioned a movie called "Shock Corridor". She didn't recommend it but I checked it out anyway. It was a shocker to say the least.

The main character of the film is reporter Johnny Barrett that has decided, in order to get the scoop on a murdered patient and earn a Pulitzer Prize, to go undercover into a psychiatric ward. Bear in mind this film was set several decades ago (and its in black and white) when reporters could legally do and had the drive to do anything for the big story.

Johnny's plan is to get himself checked into the facility to run his investigation by posing as a man that has an incestuous desire for his "sister" (who is actually his girlfriend Cathy). For incest to be considered a mental illness is a sign of those times I think. His story along with training from a psychiatrist friend of his on how to properly respond to the examiner's inquiries are enough to have him sent to the facility.

All he has to go on is a tip that three patients witnessed the murder. First there is Stuart, a former soldier brainwashed in Korea who now believes he is a Civil War general; Trent, a black man broken by the ordeal of having been the first nonwhite to enroll at a southern university; and Boden, a former nuclear scientist whose mind has deteriorated to that of a 6-year-old child. Over time he is able to learn that the killer is an attendant that killed the patient because he found out that the attendant was raping female patients (by way of taking advantage of their mental status).

In the end Johnny is able to get the evidence he needs, gets a confession from the killer and even manages to achieve his goal of a Pulitzer Prize. However it didn't come without a price. The three witnesses he spoke to, who were seeming to recover from their conditions, all fell back into their own hells (it didn't help that Johnny would play along with there conditions to get info out of them and would press them to breaking points to get every drop). But worse of all Johnny descended into his own hell.

In talking to the patients and and playing his role as a man who had incestuous desires for his "sister" he ended up believing his own cover story. Cathy slowly morphs from his girlfriend into his sister. This had to have been especially hard given that as his girlfriend he would have already had sexual thoughts about her which when added to him slowly believing his cover story must have made a real mess of things. At one point he is also subjected to electric shock treatment. By the time he is able to break the story he has fallen so far that he is sent back to the mental hospital shortly after releasing it, having believed his cover story.

I suppose the lesson here is to be mindful of what you're trying to buy but more importantly be mindful of the price you may end up paying for it.

While the movie was engaging and kept my attention more than likely I'll never watch it again. But I think its at least worth one viewing.

Now I have to go to Daisy get a recommendation for another movie.