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SHOCK(director: Alfred L. Werker; screenwriters: Martin Berkeley/Eugene Ling/story by Albert DeMond; cinematographers: Joe MacDonald/Glen MacWilliams; editor: Harmon Jones; music: David Buttolph; cast: Vincent Price (Dr. Cross), Lynn Bari (Elaine Jordan), Anabel Shaw (Janet Stewart), Michael Dunne (Dr. Stevens), Reed Hadley (DA O’Neill), Renee Carson (Mrs. Hatfield, Head Nurse), Charles Trowbridge (Dr. Harvey), Frank Latimore (Lt. Paul Stewart), Pierre Watkin (Hotel Manager); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aubrey Schenk; 20th Century Fox; 1946)
“As always, Vincent Price is suited to be a fine villain.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Alfred L. Werker directs a suspenseful low-budget B/W photographed crime drama that has a splendid premise but can’t sustain it or match the beautiful opening dream sequence, and thereby falls into being an interesting tale that can’t go all the way to the “winner’s circle.” It’s based on a story by Albert DeMond and is scripted by Martin Berkeley and Eugene Ling.

Mrs. Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw) has been on a roller coaster ride ever since learning that her army lieutenant husband Paul was reported killed in battle and later received word that was a mistake. They plan to meet for the first time since in a northern California hotel, but he fails to arrive on time and has failed to make the reservation promised. The hotel manager feels sorry for the stranded woman and arranges for a room. That evening she witnesses from the hotel room across from hers a man quarreling with a woman over a divorce and after she says no, the man picks up a heavy silver candlestick and fatally strikes her over the head. Janet goes into shock and passes out, the hotel doctor says this is above his expertise but says one of the leading shrinks is staying at the hotel and has volunteered to treat her. It turns out that the prominent psychiatrist is Dr. Cross (Vincent Price), and he just happens to be the one who killed his wife as witnessed by his patient. When the lieutenant finally arrives, he explains he was delayed and had no way of contacting his wife. Since his wife is still knocked-out, he reluctantly agrees with Dr. Cross that she should be removed to his sanitarium where he can better treat her. Nurse Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari) is assigned to look after Janet, but it just so happens she’s Cross’s mistress and the reason he killed his wife.

In the meantime Cross shipped his wife’s body out in a trunk and had it delivered to his vacation lodge. He then arranged for her body to be found in the nearby mountain chasm a week later, and it was called a hiking accident. When Janet regains consciousness a few days later and hysterically tells her hubby that Cross is a murderer, the hubby foolishly doesn’t believe her. The evil nurse and conflicted doctor then set out to keep her sedated and kill her with an overdose of an insulin-shock treatment. When his wife seems to be getting worse, hubby calls in Dr. Harvey, Cross’s medical teacher, for a second opinion.

It looks like Janet will soon be a goner, but DA O’Neill thinks a recent attack on a neighbor by a prowler is worth exhuming the body of Dr. Cross’s wife for. After the autoposy, her death is ruled as a murder. This leads to an increased investigation by the authorities and the crazed doctor now panics as he tries to regain his humanity and do the right thing, while Elaine eggs him on to murder the witness.

As always, Vincent Price is suited to be a fine villain. It was made before Price reached stardom in horror films. This eerie tale has features of both the horror and noir genres, but with the strong characterization of the femme fatale nurse by Bari–I would count it in the film noir listings.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”