8/29/10

For The Love of Price: Shock (1946)

Some romances know not the bounds of time, space, distance, dimension, or the cinema screen. One such romance has occurred between The LBL’s Fran Goria and Vincent Price. Once in a while the pull is just too overwhelming, and Miss Goria must put pen to paper for the love of the man, for the love of his movies…..

Shock (1946) Director: Alfred L. Werker. Writer: Eugene Ling (screenplay). Starring: Vincent Price, Anabel Shaw, and Lynn Bari.

Dr. Richard Cross (Price) is a well respected psychiatrist who has been having an affair with his nurse, Elaine Jordan (Bari). One evening, while at the Hampton Arms Hotel, the two are confronted by Dr. Cross’ wife. An argument ensues, and Dr. Cross kills his wife in a fit of rage. In the adjacent room, Janet Stewart (Shaw) witnesses the scene and goes into a state of shock. Concerned about her condition, Janet’s husband checks her into the local sanitarium, run by Dr. Cross. He uses the opportunity to convince Janet that she is crazy. Dr. Cross and his nurse Elaine plot to kill Janet, the only witness to the Doctor’s crime. They would administer insulin shock treatment, subsequently overdosing the girl on insulin. It was the perfect solution, but will the two be able to carry out yet another murder?


Shock is a lovely little film noir gem. It is a simple tale of murder that ends with a satisfying conclusion. The film was originally a product of 20th Century Fox’s “B” unit. However, Shock did so well that it was bumped up to an “A” picture. It is easy for one to see why the film was so well received at the time. The story was interesting, the film was shot well (although my copy could stand for some digital remastering), and it had a great cast (mostly). Shock was  Price’s first solo starring role for 20th Century Fox. He delivered an outstanding performance. Price was totally believable from the burst of anger leading up to the murder, to the guilt and remorse after, to the need to cover his crime, to his reluctance to kill again, to his calm resolve at the end. There was a great range of emotion needed to play Dr. Cross, and Price played it with grace and subtlety. Many criticize Price as an over-actor, but Shock is one film that can prove them wrong. Not only did Price play the role perfectly, but he proved himself as a leading actor.

When Price was first given the script for Shock, the studio asked him and Lynn Bari if they could shoot the film in twenty days and still have it look like a first class production. After reading the script, Price responded “Certainly we can, if you don’t change the script and louse it up for us.” The two actors accepted the challenge, and the film was shot in exactly twenty days. The studio was very pleased with the results.Lynn Bari was great opposite Vincent Price. Her Nurse Jordan was the perfect complement to Price’s Dr. Cross. She went from the caring doctor’s assistant to the evil seductress with ease. Her character kept quietly convincing Dr. Cross to go further and further to cover his crime and it was no surprise that Dr. Cross listened.

Lynn Bari was in many “B” class studio films playing mainly the other woman or the femme fatale. Her curvaceous figure and high cheek boned features helped the type casting I’m sure. Besides acting, Miss Bari was also the second most popular WWII era pin-up model. She was affectionately known as “The Woo Woo Girl” and “The girl with the million dollar figure”. I have to say that I like “The Woo Woo Girl” best of the two nick names. It almost sounds like a bad reference to the female anatomy, and that makes me giggle. “I can almost see her woo woo!” Not that I could find any risqué photos of Miss Bari, on the contrary they were all lovely and tasteful. However I love a good box joke, so my brain automatically went there. I do apologize.

The rest of the cast for Shock was also fabulous, with the exception of Miss Anabel Shaw. Her character spent most of the film unconscious, so it was hard to notice the bad acting, but one scene gave her secret away. Anabel Shaw did well until she had the react to the murder and go into shock. The scene, and the look on her face, was the most over the top piece of hilarity that I have seen in awhile. I hate to admit this, but I had to rewind and watch it several times. Shaw had a few other substantial roles, such as Gun Crazy (1950) and she co-starred with Miss Bari a second time in Home Sweet Homicide (1946). Mostly she played bit parts and uncredited roles. I’m not very surprised after seeing Shock, but I did love how terrible the one scene was.

     I truly liked Shock. I always enjoy watching Vincent Price, especially in a performance so different from the norm. Price had an affinity for devilish roles, but he played it so differently this time. He was still a killer, but his performance captured a different kind of monster than in some of his later films. I am not saying that Shock is one of the great Price films, but certainly worth the watch. This film would be a great watch for a Vincent Price fan or a lover of film noir. I know it is “shocking” that I liked Shock!

Price Rating 


3 comments:

  1. Wow! I've never seen this Vincent Price film. I'll definitely add it to the queue. Vincent Price was the MAN!

    By the way, love the new layout.

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  2. Vincent Price's movies from the 40s tend to get overlooked by people who focus purely on his horror films. Dragonwyck is another great 40s movie of his. It's gothic but not horror.

    The Bribe is another overlooked film noir gem. Price isn't the star but he has a major supporting role. It has a fabulous cast, with Robert Taylor giving his career-best performance plus Charles Laughton, Ava Gardner and Price.

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  3. Fred, this should be in queue, and I hope you like it.

    dfordoom, DRAGONWYCK is coming up in the next month or two, and I am aware of THE BRIBE, however I have not yet seen it. I will certainly check it out, thanks for the recomendation.

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