A Short by Elliot Lavine: The Twisted Corridor (1982)

US / 18 minutes / bw / Detour Dir & Scr: Elliot Lavine Pr: Elliot Lavine, Fred Klein Cine: Greg Wardell, Deland Nuse Cast: John X. Heart, Alan Dowell, Harry Rosenbluth, Harry Freeman, Sheila Lichirie, Larry Stofer, Lisa Barnett, David A. Radovich, Freddy Klein, Eddie Detour

A somewhat more ambitious movie than the same director’s earlier effort, Blind Alley (1981), being longer and with a more involved plot. However, while it’s shot in a very noirish fashion and has a screenplay that’s primarily voiceover, in a sense it seems to me less close to the heart of noir than its pared-down predecessor, being more of a psychological piece.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t have precursors that are very firmly in the film noir genre, notably Fear in the Night (1947) and Nightmare (1956), both directed by Maxwell Shane and based on the Cornell Woolrich story “And So to Death” (1941, Argosy; vt “Nightmare”), written by Woolrich under his William Irish pseudonym.

John X. Heart as Del

Advertising artist Del Garvin (Heart) is being troubled by a recurring dream:

“Night after night it’s the same dream. What’s it supposed to mean? These hallways, where do they lead? Corridors, spinning and twisting . . .”

Eventually, in the dream, he finds himself in front of the door to Room 11. When the door opens to his knock he stabs the bearded man (uncredited) within, then wakes in a sweat and, so it seems to him, with his face covered in blood.

He becomes obsessed with tracking down the bearded stranger in real life. Naturally his lack of sleep and his obsession impinge upon his work: his irascible boss, Nash (uncredited), fires him; his girlfriend, Jean (unseen and uncredited), dumps him.

The bearded stranger (uncredited) as he appears in Del’s recurring dream

Del draws the face of the stranger from memory

As his sanity fragments, he quests through a sort of phantasmagoric cityscape that’s reminiscent of the one that Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson) staggers through in the final stages of Fritz Lang’s SCARLET STREET (1945). As his research tool he relies on the brief “Murder” section in Gustavus Hindman Miller’s great classic of pseudoscientific hokum 10,000 Dreams Interpreted (1901 as What’s In a Dream?; countless editions since).

Even so, against all the odds, he tracks down the bearded man and finds himself in those twisted, Escherian corridors . . .

Visually The Twisted Corridor is a triumph. Clearly director Elliot Lavine and his cinematographer, Greg Wardell (assisted by Deland Nuse), had steeped themselves in the iconography of film noir and its German Expressionist forebears. The sound editing is interesting, too, sometimes being used to create a distancing between Del and the real world through which he moves—the real world that to him seems artificial. Billy Rhinehard’s soundtrack adds to this effect, although I confess that on occasion I wearied of its electronic jangling.

In terms of performances, almost all of the weight of the movie rests on the shoulders of John X. Heart, as Del. Heart would go on to have a lengthy screen career, although not a particularly prolific or headlining one: his most recent appearance seems to be in 2012 in the award-winning comedy/noirish short The Bunglers dir Glenn Camhi, which I haven’t seen.

The director has posted the movie to YouTube, so you can go watch it here.

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