Release dateSeptember 11, 1963 (1963-09-11) (USA) CastPeter Breck (Johnny Barrett), Constance Towers (Cathy), Gene Evans (Boden), James Best (Stuart), Hari Rhodes (Trent), Larry Tucker (Pagliacci) Similar moviesJupiter Ascending, The Last Witch Hunter, The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger, Pitch Perfect 2, Frozen
TaglineThe Medical Jungle Doctors Don't Talk About!
Shock Corridor is a 1963 film directed and written by Samuel Fuller. The film tells the story of a journalist who gets himself committed to a mental hospital in order to track an unsolved murder. Fuller originally wrote the film under the title Straitjacket for Fritz Lang in the late 1940s, but Lang wanted to change the lead character to a woman so Joan Bennett could play the role.
Journalist Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) thinks that the quickest way to a Pulitzer Prize is to uncover the facts behind a murder at a mental hospital. He convinces an expert psychiatrist to coach him to appear insane; this involves relating imaginary accounts of incest with his "sister", who is impersonated by his exotic-dancer girlfriend (Constance Towers). Barrett convinces the authorities and is locked up in the institution where the murder took place. While pursuing his investigation, he is disturbed by the behavior of his fellow inmates.
The three witnesses to the murder were driven insane by the stresses of war, bigotry or fear of nuclear annihilation.
Stuart, the son of a Southern sharecropper who was taught bigotry and hatred as a child, became cynical and angry with the country of his birth. He was captured in the Korean War and was brainwashed into becoming a Communist. Stuart was ordered to indoctrinate a fellow prisoner, but instead the prisoner's unwavering patriotism reformed him. Stuart's captors pronounced him insane and he was returned to the US in a prisoner exchange, after which he received a dishonorable discharge and was publicly reviled as a traitor. Stuart now imagines himself to be Confederate States of America General J.E.B. Stuart.
Trent was one of the first Negro students to integrate a segregated Southern university. He now imagines himself a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and stirs up the patients with white nationalist dogma.
Boden was an atomic scientist scarred by the knowledge of the devastating power of intercontinental ballistic missiles. He has regressed to the mentality of a six-year-old child.
After a hospital riot, Barrett is straitjacketed and subjected to shock treatment. Barrett begins imagining that his girlfriend really is his sister, and experiences many other symptoms of mental breakdown. He learns the identity of the killer and violently extracts a confession from him in front of witnesses and writes his story. His mind is critically damaged, however, and he has to stay in the hospital for an undefined period of time.
In 1996, Shock Corridor was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Concurrent with the release of the film in 1963, Belmont Books released a novelization of the screenplay, written by one of the era's most ubiquitous and distinctive paperback pulpsmiths, Michael Avallone. This tie-in title itself earned a share of cult fandom, and was re-released in paperback, in 1990, by UK publisher Xanadu, as part of their Blue Murder mystery imprint.