As we all settle in for a few long, lonely weeks, it’s difficult to find something to help pass the time. For those hard at work on a new literary masterpiece — ignore this. For the rest of us, here are a few movie recommendations that go beyond “Outbreak” and “Pandemic.”
This is the first in a series intended to highlight lesser-known films available to stream.
Available on Kanopy
“Shock Corridor,” director Samuel Fuller’s frenetic, hysterical portrait of America as a madhouse riven by conflict, is almost as relevant today as it was in 1963. The plot is pure, blissful absurdity: reporter Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) has himself committed to an insane asylum to solve a murder only to go crazy himself. An undeniably trashy movie, “Shock Corridor” is filled with strippers, nymphomaniacs, over-the-top dream sequences and lots of yelling. It also manages to say more about America (in smarter and funnier ways) than a whole grab bag of weighty Oscar-bait dramas.
As a story about the cracking of one man’s psyche (as well as America’s as a whole), “Shock Corridor” is the perfect movie to remind you that, as bad as self-quarantine is, things could be worse. It’s also a good reminder that once upon a time, people made movies that were smart, enjoyable, short, trashy and filled with ideas. Now we have to choose between stale, leviathan-esque films and sugar-rush entertainment targeted at hyperkinetic 8-year-olds. Fuller’s film is neither. It seems unclassifiable today, a straight B-movie that grapples with some of America’s most entrenched issues (notably race) in intelligent ways. The film panders to the baser instincts of its audience with several nakedly exploitative sequences (such as an extended strip club performance) while also challenging them to think critically about the state of the American soul. It might be a bit of a stretch to call “Shock Corridor” downright Shakespearean in its commitment to both high and low culture (it’s certainly at least 85% “low”), but only a bit. “Shock Corridor” is not subtle, not politically correct, not polite and not afraid to get weird. It is, in short, excellent.