Color, 1973, 113 mins. 25 secs.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bardem
Starring Jean Seberg, Marisol, Barry Stokes, Perla Cristal, Ruby Gaebel
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

The The Corruption of Chris Millerhistory of '70s The Corruption of Chris MillerSpanish horror is a fascinating one with government restrictions governing how much could be shown in domestic releases, with everything from Paul Naschy monster movies to Gothic suspense thrillers jumping through hoops to create dual versions satisfying audiences at home and abroad. One of the best but more neglected films from the earlier stages is The Corruption of Chris Miller, a very effective mixture of potboiler, giallo, and proto slasher that stands proudly alongside other gems like A Bell from Hell, A Candle for the Devil, and The House That Screamed.

When a blonde nightclub singer is brutally killed one afternoon by a knife-wielding psycho dressed as Charlie Chaplin(!), it becomes clear that serial killer is at work in a Spanish town thanks to six other strange deaths in the area. Meanwhile British drifter Barney (Stokes) ends up staying at the elegant home of Ruth Miller (Seberg) and her pretty but unstable stepdaughter, Chris (Marisol), who's a bit unstable after the disappearance of her father and a recent sexual assault that left her with a pathological reaction to falling water. Barney's frequently undressed presence causes additional friction between the two women, who are already harboring barely suppressed resentments against each other. The Corruption of Chris MillerMeanwhile the killings continue, and it soon becomes clear that someone in the Millers' circle could be responsible.

All of the major names associated with this film are a bit of a surprise, particularly star and Otto Preminger discovery Jean Seberg The Corruption of Chris Miller(who died before the decade was out). A familiar star in films like Breathless, Paint Your Wagon and multiple Claude Chabrol films, she suffered a severe career downturn soon after this film due to her revolutionary politics. Her fine work extends to this film, one she reportedly wasn't happy about doing but nevertheless gave her all with an interesting, shaded performance that suits the unusually smart and surprise-filled script. Former child star and popular singer Marisol is also an odd but effective choice as the damaged younger member of the household, while Stokes is effective in one of his earlier performances before moving on to loads of TV work as well as Norman J. Warren's Prey, Jacques Demy's Lady Oscar, and his goofy, uninhibited turn in The Ups and Downs of a Handyman. Director Juan Antonio Bardem (uncle of Javier) does an excellent job of balancing the offbeat mixture of tones here, while the lush score is provided by the easy listening perennial Waldo de los Rios (The House That Screamed, Who Can Kill a Child?). Some of the elements can get nutty at times (those bodybuilder flashbacks!), but it's all part of the film as the story builds up to a truly crazed finale.

Barely given a theatrical release in the U.S. (including a low-tier reissue as Behind the Shutters), The Corruption of Chris Miller has been seen almost entirely on the gray market over The Corruption of Chris Millerthe past few decades unless you were lucky enough to snag one of the scarce European VHS The Corruption of Chris Millerreleases. None of them looked terribly good or featured the film's full Panavision aspect ratio, so it's a miracle its reputation managed to survive as much as it did. The 2019 dual-format Blu-ray and DVD release from Vinegar Syndrome is a major cause for rejoicing for fans of European horror as it finally presents the film in pristine condition, and what a wild ride it is. Sourced from a new 4K scan of the original negative, it looks immaculate with a much more robust appearance than you could ever hope for, and the restoration of the image's full width is essential to enjoying some of its more shocking moments (including a harrowing home invasion mass slaughter). Audio is presented in the preferable English mix (which preserves Seberg and Stokes' original voices, with a dubbed Marisol still delivering her lines in English) as well as the Spanish-language version, both DTS-HD MA mono and featuring English subtitles (for the English track or translated from the Spanish).

The alternate Spanish ending (which, surprisingly enough, is less punitive and more realistic) is included as an extra along with the alternate Spanish titles, a brief alternate The Corruption of Chris Millerinsert shot involving a newspaper, and the English theatrical trailer. A Spanish TV retrospective of Bardem's career (58m23s) is essentially an The Corruption of Chris Millerinterview about his career including some abandoned projects, memories of Cannes and various producers, and some of his more notable films, many of which would be fun to see in subtitled editions someday. Finally, "Jean Seberg: Movie Star" (12m5s) features family members including Seberg's sister, Mary Ann, former husband Francois Moreuil, director Nicolas Gessner, and Jean Seberg - Breathless author Garry McGee sharing biographical info and memories of the gifted actress whose career was cut way too short in the aftermath of a government smear campaign. As usual, there's a 2,000-unit slipcase edition that will catch a few eyes sitting on your shelf.

Reviewed on April 17, 2019.