The Corruption of Chris Miller is a Spanish oddity from noted director Juan Antonio Bardem, who is best known for his Hitchcockian neo-realist opus, Death of a Cyclist. It’s also one of the last films to star Jean Seberg and you can see on her face the toll that the FBI investigation and smear job had taken on her here.
It’s been debated whether The Corruption of Chris Miller is a Spanish giallo or not. It’s up for grabs, so let’s allow the viewers to decide. It certainly shows a lot of the genre’s hallmarks. The Chris Miller of the title is the daughter of Ruth (Jean Seberg), who lives in this Spanish mansion. One day a young drifter arrives and sleeps in their barn. When Ruth discovers him sleeping naked in the hay, she eventually lets him stay for a while as a handyman. However, the film’s opening scene has a Charlie Chaplin-masked assailant murdering a woman… and this drifter’s arrival connected with the brutal murder in the opening. It’s one in a string of murders, and soon it’s been reported by the local press.
Jean Seberg is probably the biggest draw here, and she is great as expected—but she is also a far cry from that girl in À Bout de Souffle. The dynamic between her and her mentally disturbed daughter Marisol recalls What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? in some regards. It would be interesting to know what an older Jean Seberg might have done in future roles. Barry Strokes is also excellent as the drifter. He didn’t do much else of note, but is also in Prey (also released by Vinegar Syndrome), and his final film was a small role in the film Terry Gilliam turned down to do Brazil… Enemy Mine.
Unlike the Italian giallos, it’s relatively low on the gore and tits count, which is probably down to the censorship of Franco’s fascist government. Some filmmakers, like Paul Naschy, would shoot alternative scenes for other markets, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case here. The direction by Juan Antonio Bardem puts it above the pack of similar ’70s Euro-horror, and if you haven’t already connected the dots, the actor Javier Bardem is his nephew. The director was an outspoken critic of Franco’s regime throughout his life, and was even imprisoned for a period in 1956 on political grounds. He also is the guy who invited Luis Buñuel back to Spain in the early ’60s, so this member of the Bardem family had quite a life.
It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s in a genre where perfection isn’t really the objective. Still, it’s a pretty wild ride, which is all you can hope for. The disc from Vinegar Syndrome is as always exceptional, with a nearly hour-long interview with Bardem, a short documentary on Jean Seberg, and some alternative Spanish versions of sequences. The English and Spanish audio are included: I think the English dub has more of the original voices, but I could be wrong. The trailer is also included, and typical of Vinegar Syndrome releases, it’s on both Blu-Ray and DVD,