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SHOCKPROOF (director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: Helen Deutsch/Samuel Fuller; cinematographer: Charles Lawton Jr.; editor: Gene Havlick; music: George Duning; cast: Cornel Wilde (Griff Marat), Patricia Knight (Jenny Marsh), John Baragrey (Harry Wesson), Esther Minciotti (Mrs. Marat), Howard St. John (Sam Brooks), Russell Collins (Frederick Bauer), Charles Bates (Tommy Marat), Gilbert Barnett (Barry); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Helen Deutsch/S. Sylvan Simon; Columbia Pictures; 1949)
“A hamstrung potboiler.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A hamstrung potboiler helmed by the great Douglas Sirk (“Battle Hymn”/”Interlude”/”Take me To Town”) before he was great and written by Samuel Fuller before he embarked on his legendary directing career. You would think this awesome combo would transfer to a great film, but not so fast. Their styles cross swords, with too much pulp from Fuller and too much melodrama from Sirk. But what finally sunk it was the studio interference of a forced happy ending (the Columbia enforced rewrite by Helen Deutsch), leaving this one with too many pat coincidences and lacking in credibility (no fault of either Fuller or Sirk, who wanted their hero to go against the unjust system).

Fuller gives his script a tabloid-like look as he cries out in a not too subtle voice that the ex-con is not getting a fair break after serving time and is forced to endure such a harsh parole system. While Sirk searches for answers about what makes people fall in love and how when they do they become crazy, which is their only hope for salvation.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Griff Marat (Cornel Wilde) is the straightshooter decent parole officer respected by the community for his dedicated service. Jenny Marsh (Patricia Knight, she was married to Wilde at the time) is the long-legged sexy blonde from a dysfunctional family who just did five years in the slammer for knocking off someone to protect her oily gambler boyfriend Harry Wesson (John Baragrey). She’s assigned to the handsome Griff for her lifetime parole, and told to stay clear of Wesson, not to frequent gambling joints, hang out with ex-cons, or to ever get married. To smooth things over for the attractive chick, the bachelor lets her live with him and his idolizing young brother Tommy in his intuitive blind Italian mother’s Los Angeles house (Why see if you are intuitive?), where Jenny’s hired to take care of Mrs. Marat (Esther Minciotti) and learn what a normal family is like. Naturally the probation officer falls for the flashy broad (Who wouldn’t?) and secretly marries her, going against regulations and endangering his career. As expected Wesson makes trouble and for his efforts takes a slug in the chest from his ex-girlfriend. The doomed lovers try to escape across the border to Mexico, but when foiled hide out while he does proletarian work on an oil rig and dwells in a shack fit for illegals. Going stir crazy over being on-the-run, they surrender but a still living Wesson goes all fuzzy and refuses to press charges–claiming it was an accident.

The moral of the story got lost in the contrived ending, as it proves only to be a predictable programmer with film noir trappings that’s well acted but less than what meets the eye. The l’amour fou is made watchable through the sharp-edged Sirkian visuals to keep it edgier than the stale narrative (great chiaroscuro coloring in its b/w photography and many interesting shots of mirrors). British pop artist Richard Hamilton used a still from the film of the hot looking Knight for a series of famous 1964 paintings.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”