Saturday, April 18, 2009


Reviewed by Nathaniel Poggiali

London fashion designer Ruth Miller (Jean Seberg) retreats to a Spanish villa, still recovering from her husband's sudden abandonment a year earlier. Stepdaughter Chris (Marisol), fresh out of a clinic, is haunted by rape at the hands of a gap-toothed weightlifter. The charming couple bitch and bicker about their husband/father's commitment issues. Chris believes that Ruth has insisted she stay in the hopes that it will lure him back. She falls into an affair with Ruth in between vivid flashbacks that have the girl stabbing at pillows with a letter opener. "Men don't love," Ruth says, "they possess, they injure, they intrude. It's always cruelty and violence with them."

Into the picture walks Barney Webster (Barry Stokes), a smug English anthropology student wandering through the country and sleeping naked in haystacks. He seduces Ruth but grows bored of her constant whining and moves in on the stepdaughter. Chris' violent spells become more erratic. "We should always be scared," she tells Barney, "We never know when something might happen -- and when it does, everything changes so suddenly." Ruth is jealous of Barney's affair with Chris and throws him out of the house. Meanwhile a serial murderer has been stalking the countryside. When Barney returns and breaks into the villa, Ruth convinces Chris that their former lover is the killer.

This Spanish giallo from director Juan Antonio Bardem and screenwriter Santiago Moncada (HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON) robs a slasher-with-an-extra-chromosome from THE CAT O' NINE TAILS and moves at the molasses speed of Sergio Martino's weaker efforts. Seberg is dull as an icy, over-the-hill femme fatale in peroxide blonde hairdo (Carroll Baker was apparently unavailable), yet the moments of violence are intense and bizarre. In the pre-credit teaser our killer -- in full Little Tramp costume and make-up -- does a pretty decent Chaplin imitation shortly before plunging a pair of scissors through the hand of a cheating housewife. Hilarious and shocking, this scene is certainly unique to the genre. It's too bad the characters never grabbed me.

THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER opened in the U.S. in 1975 with spoiler ads and posters that revealed far too much information. The movie was pulled from circulation and re-released in '76 as BEHIND THE SHUTTERS with a very different ad campaign. It has yet to find a legitimate DVD release in the States.

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