Juan Antonio Bardem’s female-driven 1973 Spanish thriller The Corruption of Chris Miller (originally La corrupcion de Chris Miller, and sometimes Behind the Shutters) is something of an anti-giallo. Over the course of its nearly two-hour running time, Bardem hints at the importance of a black-gloved, scythe-sporting killer rampaging through beautiful Spanish countrysides, but the majority of the film focuses on Chris Miller (Marisol) and her stepmother Ruth (Jean Seberg), both dealing with the aftermath of being left behind by Chris’ father and trying to mend their damage with the company of the handsome roaming Barney Webster (Barry Stokes). Part romance, part Gothic thriller, and part giallo, The Corruption of Chris Miller is a slow burn couched in an intriguing concept.
The interaction between Seberg’s Ruth and Marisol’s Chris is where the film really takes off – both are reeling, and Ruth has made it a point to corrupt Chris to the point where she’s no longer the same person her father once knew if he ever comes back. In part, Bardem’s direction is about revenge; he shows Ruth in a particularly evil light as she torments Chris by turning the power on and off, hinting at molestation, and continually dredging up Chris’ flashbacks of a rape sequence that the audience is only privy to late in the film. It’s all very effective, with Seberg primarily the star of the show; though she has an incredible mean streak, her own trauma ensures that the audience – and Chris – can’t hate her too much. She’s using Chris as her own crutch, and The Corruption of Chris Miller shows the insidious nature of being a plaything in someone else’s life.
All of that is more pronounced once Barney comes into the picture, a morally-questionable young man who is looking for some easy tail from two damaged women and possibly something more. He’s just another extension of being used, and the film spends a lot of time on the romances between Barney, Ruth, and Chris. While the film can run a little long in its middle half, Bardem sets up Barney as the obvious stand-in for the killer that we see only twice throughout. It’s too obvious for the viewer, but that means we’re constantly looking for another shadowy figure that might make himself known to the Millers.
Alas, the hooded murderer is just a ruse to draw attention away from Ruth and Chris and to give a neat twist to the film’s conclusion. While some viewers may not like Bardem toying with their expectations, the finale is fitting because it has a lot more to say about its title character than simply resolving a serial killer story. Instead, The Corruption of Chris Miller ends on a sad note – neither Chris or Ruth get a happily-ever-after tale, both forced to live with dark secrets in their own Stockholm Syndrome world.
The Corruption of Chris Miller is exceedingly plodding, and its kills are few and far between. It won’t appeal to viewers who are not prepared to spend copious amounts of time on character study, or those looking for a traditional black-gloved killer giallo. But I urge you to give the film a chance to expand past its generic setup and appreciate the dark tale of passion and vengeance; the included killer is just a secondary treat.
Vinegar Syndrome has given The Corruption of Chris Miller a beautiful new Blu-ray release with a 4k restoration of the film from the original 35mm camera negative. The results are absolutely gorgeous; the film is drenched in color, from the verdant hues of the Spanish countryside to the vibrant reds of spilled blood. There is about a medium grain body, and detail is very high. Occasional spots and damage can be seen especially in the film’s final shot, and there is one occasion where a dark sequence loses some definition. But overall this 4k restoration looks amazing, and Vinegar Syndrome has done an excellent job giving fans a visual feast.
Vinegar Syndrome includes two options for the audio. First is the original English language track, along with English subtitles that match the dialogue. The other is the Spanish dubbed track with English subtitles that correspond with the slightly changed dialogue. Both sound great with a bombastic score and clear, crisp dialogue. The English language subtitles are slightly delayed, though, which can be a little frustrating.
The extras at first appear to be a bit lacking considering there are no new features or commentaries; however, diving a little deeper reveals some nice inclusions. Vinegar Syndrome provides the Spanish opening credits, the alternate Spanish ending (which I actually prefer), and a shot of the Spanish newspaper insert. Along with that, they’ve assembled a 58 minute archival interview with Bardem called Different Perspectives, and a previously-released 12 minute short documentary on the life of Jean Seberg. The original theatrical trailer is also included and appears to have been restored too.
The set also includes a DVD version of the film and reversible cover artwork.
For fans of slow-burn horror and giallo cinema, The Corruption of Chris Miller is well worth a look, and Vinegar Syndrome’s excellent Blu-ray/DVD combo has restored the film to its original glory. Definitely recommended.