Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 240: Shock (1946) - Rank 3/5


Long before Vincent Price was typecast as the affable villain in countless horror films, he played several roles as the affable villain in film noir. In the clever "Laura," he was a smarmy red herring and it seems that he's one of the primarily rogues in "The Bribe" (a title I've been struggling to find in some format). And while Price typically fails to disappoint, he doesn't necessarily thrill in "Shock" either.

The movie begins with a dame, as these stories often do, who just happens to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. For two years after the end of WWII, Janet Stewart has assumed that her husband was killed in action, but one day, she receives a letter from him explaining that he is alive, and that he's on his way home. So as Janet awaits the return of her husband, she witnesses a brutal killing of a woman though her window. The shock of the incident sends her into a catatonic state, which her husband, Lt. Stewart (Frank Latimore), finds her in. A cheery reunion. But thankfully, a famous psychoanalyst happens to be staying in the hotel - Dr. Cross (Price). He takes Janet under his wing and gives her his utmost attention at his sanatorium...because Dr. Cross so happens to be the murderer that Janet witnessed. Cue dramatic chord.

It's actually a cool setup, because the more Janet swears that Dr. Cross is a killer, the more he claims that she's merely delusional - a condition that can be rectified with ample pills and electroshock. It's also fairly dark for the era to, but only dark in theme. The lighting and direction that can make or break a film noir is terribly conventional, and while I found the performances of the key actors engaging (primarily Price, who can do no wrong in my eyes - I forgive you for "Bloodbath at the House of Death," Vincent!), I was left feeling rather indifferent in the end.

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