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Posts Tagged ‘1946’

Synopsis

This old black and white film starring Vincent Price was set as a post-WWII suspense  thriller.  The emotional wife of a POW soldier waits for her husband to return home from war.  After Janet (Anabel Shaw) has a nightmare about her husband, she wakes to see a couple fighting across the balcony.  She hears the entire argument, and watches as the man clubs the woman in the head with a candlestick repeatedly.shock1

The next morning, her husband Paul (Frank Latimore) comes to the hotel to find her, running later than expected.  He finds Janet sitting on the couch in the room, motionless and blank, her eyes transfixed upon the open window in front of her.  She’s in shock, a local doctor confirms, but claims there is an expert psychiatrist conveniently staying at the hotel to assist her.

You guess it, the husband who killed his wife, Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price).

Performances

***WARNING – SPOILERS TO THE ENDING***SKIP***

The entire build up seems overly complicated for the plot that it leads to.  But the real meat of the film comes from Dr. Cross taking Janet to his sanatorium, where he and his girlfriend baddy Nurse Elaine Jordon (Lynn Bari) are able to watch her night and day.  As you would expect, Vincent Price rather tends to steal the show once he appears, and his acting draws you in.  Throughout most of the film you find yourself just as conflicted as he is – questioning his actions, but understanding where he came from and why he did it.  For some reason it’s more difficult to write him off as the simple killer.  At times he seems to feel genuinely regretful of his actions, especially when he’s getting flashbacks of his dead wife.

As the film progresses, you end up seeing Elaine as more the evil entity in the film – mostly due to the way that she coerces Dr. Cross.  When he goes on a long trip out of town while his wife’s body is discovered by authorities, he returns questioning whether Elaine was worth it all.  But then turns and kisses her, finalizing his decision.

At the end, Dr. Cross commits another murder, this time of the lovely Elaine.  She tries to convince Dr. Cross to kill Janet, to remove her as the only witness to the crime, as they’ve convinced themselves it must.  What started out as a simple murder turns into a snowball effect, and Dr. Cross gets rid of Elaine in a fit of fury very similar to that of Janet.

This film also had one of the best conclusions in the end that I’ve seen.  Of course, by this point in the film, you’re not really very concerned about Janet and Paul – their characters are rather flat and uninteresting by this point.  So the film focuses on Dr. Cross.  As the DA comes into his office, Dr. Cross makes one final notation on the patient of Janet, then goes over to a coat rack and changes his jacket.  He takes his time, the worry clear on his face, but his determination to be proper and well dressed even in the face of destruction continues.  Silently, he follows the DA out of the office and is walked down the hall, presumably to an awaiting vehicle to take him to jail or trial.

The reason this is such a very nice conclusion is that typically films of this type would cut off after the climax – Janet and Paul are reunited, Elaine is dead, and Dr. Cross is taken to be punished.  The extra few moments though let you see a little bit more into the character of Dr. Cross, and you see that even though he is a murderer, you have to respect his bravery and class.  Those extra few moments leave you with a satisfied pondering of the film, without disappointing you with a rushed ending.

Film Quality

The wear and tear of time was quite evident on the copy I watched of this film, a DVD collection of Vincent Price’s more memorable films.  The graininess at times was quite distracting, and noise would come out of the sides while viewing the film.  Splotches would speckle throughout as well, being quite obvious on a large television.  My friend and I even commented on it.

ME: Wow, it’s really degraded.

HER: Yeah, well you know the restoration they do on films to remove all of that?

ME: Yeah?

HER: Well, I don’t think this one is popular enough for them to spend the money on it.

On one side, I must admit, this is sad.  The longer the film goes without repair, the more degraded it will become, making it almost impossible to repair in the future.  At the same time, this is a pricey procedure, and you have to wonder if it’s truly worth it.  Yes, this film is good.  Yes, this film has Vincent Price.  But honestly it’s not the most memorable film of his I’ve ever seen, though it is good.  Is it worth it?  I say yes – simply because we shouldn’t judge what films are worthy of saving or not.  But let me get off my soap box…

Special Effects

Of course a film like this won’t have the dazzling special effects you see in films these days.  However, what is evident are the excellent camera shots that are made shock2 throughout the film.  One point I remember vividly is when a bad storm comes to the sanatorium, and Elaine and an orderly crowd together to look at the lightning.  The shot is from the outside of the building, and slowly pans upward to the cell of one of the inmates who is clinically terrified of storms.  There aren’t many of these interesting camera shots throughout the film, but a few like this one caught my eye.shock3

Overall Impression

In the end, I would have to give this film a firm B.  This is mostly due to the overly excitable acting that was typical of films in this time, and of this genre.  In fact, Vincent Price is the only actor in the film who really seems to pull the story along.  The plot itself is enjoyable due to the mind games played within the asylum contrasted with the dangerous lives of Dr. Cross and Nurse Elaine.  It’s a fascinating tale, and definitely one that should be experienced.  But don’t expect to get a craving to watch the film over and over again.  It doesn’t have that kind of lengthy impression.

The character of Dr. Cross is fascinating though, and truly keeps the audience’s attention throughout the film.  You find yourself constantly trying to guess what he’ll do next, because to be honest, it’s apparent that even he doesn’t know.

Resources

YouTube: Pt. 1/7 Shock (1946) Starring Vincent Price

IMDB: Shock (1946)

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