A few times a year, I open my mailbox to find an innocuous package from cult film preservation and releasing company, Vinegar Syndrome. I never know what film I’m going to get. In the past few months, I’ve reviewed a body horror film (Australia’s Body Melt 1993), a horror parody (Wacko 1982) and a killer fetus flick (The Suckling 1990). The selections run the horror movie spectrum in the most satisfying way. The most recent Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray/DVD combo to cross my threshold was a 4K Restoration of a Spanish giallo film called The Corruption of Chris Miller AKA La Corrupcion de Chris Miller, which was originally released in 1973. I had never heard of it, and honestly, I’ve never been a fan of giallo, so I had no idea what I was going to think.
The Corruption of Chris Miller was directed by Javier Bardem’s uncle, Juan Antonio Bardem (The Young Picasso: 1881 – 1906 TV series), from a script written by Santiago Moncada (The Cauldron of Death 1973). The cast includes Jean Seberg (Airport 1970) who would commit suicide just a few years later in 1979 at the age of 40, and child actress/singer, Marisol (Carmen 1983), who had Fidel Castro as the Best Man at her wedding with Antonio Gades in 1982. Also involved were Barry Stokes (Prey 1978), Perla Cristal (Love In Difficult Times TV series), Gérard Tichy (Doctor Zhivago 1965), Alicia Altabella (The Ugliest Woman In The World 1999), Mariano Vidal Molina (The Mysterious Island 1973), Antonio Parra (Conan the Barbarian 1982) and Gustavo Re (The Summertime Killer 1972). Director Bardem has a small role as Pedro, while his own children, Miguel and María, played his character’s offspring.
A serial killer uses a scythe to slash his murder victims–or maybe it’s her murder victims?
There’s quite a bit going on in The Corruption of Chris Miller. We’ve got Ruth Miller (Seberg), who’s husband has run off on her for reasons unknown. Ruth takes care of her stepdaughter, Chris Miller (Marisol), a young woman who has frequent, violent flashbacks due to a sexual attack that she suffered while in the shower at the gym. These women have a love/hate relationship – Ruth needs another person to keep her from being lonely but blames Chris for her husband’s abandonment, while Chris needs Ruth to comfort her during her rain-triggered PTSD episodes but hates the fact that she needs help and takes it out on her stepmother. They live in a huge house in the Spanish countryside, one that has been fitted with padlocked windows and doors to help them feel safe. The bars don’t stop drifter Barney (Stokes) from holing up in their barn, scaring Ruth when she goes out to collect chicken eggs. As he stands up out of the hay, we see he’s completely in the buff. This is the first time we see nakedness in The Corruption of Chris Miller, but not the last.
Ruth actually lets Barney move in, and they begin a rum-soaked affair. It’s only slightly awkward, at least until she convinces him to take Chris’ virginity… after she seduces the girl in her own bed after a particularly terrible flashback. Barney is a horndog who will sleep with anyone. Thank goodness the Millers didn’t have a cute little dog running around, or he would have bagged that, too. Chris isn’t exactly innocent. The cutting retorts that this husky-voiced sexpot shoots at Ruth are terribly cruel, and she spends a lot of time horseback rising braless and prancing around in a sheer robe. Of course, the scythe-wielding, raincoat-wearing killer running around their town doesn’t help matters. The fact that all three of these people have the potential to be the psycho makes evenings at home pretty tense.
What I Liked
Let me start by saying this restoration is gorgeous. The beautiful scenery show by DoP Juan Gelpi (Alice in Spanish Wonderland 1979) is improved greatly over the original film, now clean and sharp with much more intense colors. When we do find out who the killer is, his motive is the strangest excuse I’ve ever heard of in a movie of any genre. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it has something to do with farm animals. Bardem used an orchestral score created by Waldo de los Rios (Who Can Kill A Child? 1971) rather than the omnipresent Ennio Morricone scores of that were popular in the mid-20th century. The Corruption of Chris Miller tells a lot of its story by having characters outright explain what’s going on… until the end, when the film opens up into a geyser of skin, blood and flashing metal, which was all the more shocking after the rather dialogue-oriented beginning.
The giallo-esque murder by stabbing technique was prevalent, with deaths by knives, a scythe and even a pair of scissors, which is great for the genre fan. The whole Charlie Chaplin aspect was so out of left field. I really can’t figure out why the filmmakers even introduced it, although it is mentioned several times through the film’s runtime. Maybe it’s similar to why John Carpenter used the William Shatner mask for Halloween… they only had access to one random face covering and had to make it work. Who knows. Speaking of Halloween, the Chaplin mask resembles the Myers mask quite a bit, only with its very own Hitler mustache. Is it possible that Carpenter was influenced by The Corruption of Chris Miller five years later when he made his indie blockbuster?
What I Didn’t Like
The acting in The Corruption of Chris Miller is cringingly over the top, which is expected in a giallo film (part of the reason why I don’t like the genre), and the voice dubbing is off, with the audio not always matching up to the video. It seems as though the actors are already speaking their lines in English, so I’m not sure why the film had to be dubbed. Maybe their accents were an issue?
Final Thoughts on The Corruption of Chris Miller
Despite the fact that I am not a giallo nut, I did enjoy The Corruption of Chris Miller for what it was, especially the ending. Vinegar Syndrome released this beautiful 4k restoration Blu-ray/DVD combo on April 30, 2019. If you’re a fan of giallo, you’ve got to pick this one up.