Bent on winning a Pulitzer Prize, ambitious reporter Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) has himself committed to a mental institution to solve the murder of an inmate. Very little detective work is required: He simply questions three patients in their rare moments of lucidity.
The first – a brainwashed Korean GI (James Best) who now supposes himself a Civil War general – tells him the murderer wore a white uniform. The second – a black student broken by the strain of gaining admission to a Southern university who now fancies himself a fanatical white supremacist (Hari Rhodes) – says the murderer was one of the attendants.
The third – a once-brilliant nuclear physicist who has retreated to a childlike state (Gene Evans) – names the murderer.
And that is the story, except for a “shock” twist at the end which has been so thoroughly set up throughout the film that it comes as no surprise. But obvious though the story is, it is never dull.
Samuel Fuller weighs down his film with all manner of gratuitous sensationalism: a striptease, incest, an attack on the hero by a gaggle of nymphomaniacs, and a pointless series of sexy nighttime dream sequences which any sensible editor would have turned into nocturnal omissions.
Fuller invests his storytelling with such visual force, vigour and conviction that he grips the audience’s attention in every frame. Even while you’re deploring some outrageous gaffe, your eyes remain glued to the screen to see what’s going to happen next.
The film was shot in 10 days on one set.
Dr JL Menkin
Dr LG Cristo