The Spanish had quite a sideline making their own versions of the Italian giallo. However, whilst Paul Naschy’s efforts (including the SEVEN MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD (1971) and A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE (1974)) are enjoyable trashy, THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER is an altogether more serious affair. Having said that, it does hold its own when it comes to violence, sleaze and perhaps one of the loopiest motives for a killer ever.
Two women are living together in an isolated Spanish mansion (which actually looks more like a English country home). Ruth Miller (played by American actress Jean Seburg, who was perhaps most famous as Joan of Arc in Otto Preminger's SAINT JOAN (1957) – and who died tragically a few years after making this film) shares the house with her stepdaughter, Chris (former Spanish child star Marisol). Chris’ father had abandoned both of them a year beforehand, which caused his daughter to have a nervous breakdown – something acerbated by being raped in the shower by a body-builder whilst at school (!). Whenever it rains it reminds her of her ordeal and she freaks out, grabbing the nearest sharp instrument and stabbing whatever is close to hand ...
Ruth’s interest in her stepdaughter isn’t as altruistic as it first seems. Firstly, she appears to have Sapphic designs on her – and it soon emerges that she blames her for her husband leaving them. Her slow revenge will be quite literally the corruption of Chris Miller.
Into their lives wanders a handsome British drifter, Barney (played by Barry Stokes who went on to appear as the alien in Norman J. Warren's nihilistic British sci-fi horror PREY (1978)). Ruth is attracted to the Brit (after finding him buck naked in her barn, bar a few straw bits of straw), but tries to hide this by repeatedly attempting to throw him out. However, he eventually seduces her and then turns his attentions to the younger woman. Rather that discourage this, Ruth actively solicits the deflowering of her stepdaughter.
Whilst this twisted little soap opera unwinds, the countryside nearby is being terrorised by a string of vicious murders. Firstly, a famous nightclub singer is stabbed to death with scissors by someone wearing a Charlie Chaplin disguise – and then a whole family is butchered by the killer wearing a rain slicker and carrying a hand scythe. Soon Ruth and Chris put aside their mind games and begin to wonder if Barney might have something to do with the slayings …
THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER is particularly striking for a number of reasons, not least of all its amazing similarities towards later slasher flicks. This is no more striking than when a family is killed in quick succession by the killer in the rain slicker, which could have quite literally been lifted from any of the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER films (both the outfit is almost identical, as is the methodical nature of the assassin). Perhaps more tenuously, the discarded Chaplin mask looks a dead ringer for Michael Myers’ one (but with a Hitler moustache!).
THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER is blessed with some striking cinematography, especially in the outdoor scenes – and hopefully we'll see a decent wide-screen release of it one day that'll do it justice. It differentiates itself from other similar films from around this time by dispensing with the Ennio Morricone'esque pop musak that were then ubiquitous, in favour of a lush orchestral score.
The film revolves around the three main characters. Seburg's slightly detached performance (it's been suggested that she was embarrassed to be in a film of this type) actually suits her morally ambiguous character. Marisol is fine as the sexy teen vixen, whose underlying mania might be responsible for the bloodshed. Stokes doesn't have to do much more than act shifty and look sexy, something he's well equipped to do.
Whilst the film has a stately – almost staid – air for much of its running time, this makes the violent set pieces all the more startling. The slo-mo, sustained attack on one naked male victim with multiple knives is certainly one of the most brutal I’ve seen in any 70s giallo. It might not be too much of stretch to wonder if it influenced the similarly artful bloodshed of fellow Spanish director José Ramón Larraz's better known VAMPYRES (1974).
It might not be easy to track down, but THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER is certainly worth the effort.
female:4 / male:3
1) Female stabbed to death with scissors
2) Male found with throat slit
3) Female killed with scythe
4) Male killed with scythe
5) Female killed with scythe
6) Male killed with scythe
7) Male repeatedly stabbed with knives