The Lurid Intensity of Shock Corridor’s Long Takes

The irrepressible Samuel Fuller had quite the career, beginning his apprenticeship in the cutthroat world of New York newspapers at the age of twelve and going on to become a decorated veteran of World War II, before making a name for himself in the movie business. The bold, no-holds-barred style that Fuller came to develop behind the camera is perfectly illustrated by the 1963 thriller Shock Corridor, in which a reporter goes undercover in a psych ward in order to solve a murder. In the latest installment of the Criterion’s Channel’s monthly series Observations on Film Art, scholar Jeff Smith subjects Shock Corridor to a close examination, analyzing how Fuller marshals the film’s camera work—particularly the dynamic long takes captured by cinematographer Stanley Cortez (The Night of the Hunter)—to ratchet up its psychological intensity, and to drive home the mental hospital’s significance as a multifaceted metaphor for America’s social ills. Preview the episode above, then head over to the Channel to watch the whole thing, along with the sensational Shock Corridor itself.

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