Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More underrated Vincent Price

Most people today would probably remember Vincent Price for the silly horror movies he made, probably starting with House of Wax in 1953 and continuing through all those William Castle movies. Price actually did serious work in the first 15 years of his career, and didn't do that badly, although most of the roles were supporting roles, as in the recently-recommended Laura. One movie in which he did get a leading role is Shock, which you can see tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM ET on the Fox Movie Channel.

Anabel Shaw opens up the movie, playing Mrs. Stewart, a very nervous woman checking into a hotel to meet her husband. She's nervous because she had long considered her husband (Frank Latimore) to be dead: her husband is an Army Lieutenant who had been declared missing in action and presumed dead. The government was wrong, and having been shocked by the discovery that her husband is in fact alive, she's coming to meet him. Before she can see him, however, she sees something much more shocking. Looking across the hotel courtyard, she sees Vincent Price strangling his wife to death on the balcony of another hotel apartment! This won't do, and her husband finds her the next morning in a catatonic state. The hotel doctor, however, has some good news for the husband: there's a prominent psychiatrist who has an apartment in the hotel, and that psychiatrist would be the perfect person to bring the wife back to health. Unfortunately, what the doctor and lieutenant don't realize is that the psychiatrist, Dr. Cross, is none other than murderous Vincent Price!

The bad doctor fairly quickly realizes what's happened, and comes up with a diabolical plot. He runs a sanitarium, and since this woman is in shock, the sanitarium would be a perfect place for her to spend a few weeks, during which time he can make her realize that seeing the murder was just a sign of insanity. And if that doesn't work, well, he can always come up with some way for the mentally sick woman to die a plausible death. Will the good guys figure out what's going on and stop it in time?

Sadly, since the film was made during the Production Code era, you can guess what the answer is to that last question. It's a pretty good bet that the doctor isn't going to get away with it, and he isn't going to live happily ever after with his new love, the nurse who helps him run the sanitarium (Lynn Bari). That's one of the film's two big drawbacks; the other is that it's about 15 or 20 minutes too short. Shock only runs about 70 minutes, and should really be closer to 90 to allow for better fleshing out the characters and not making the ending so rushed. The actors, however, are capable; watch also for Reed Hadley, who provided the voiceovers for many of Fox's docudramas of the late 1940s, playing a district attorney. Shock, despite its flaws, is entertaining enough, like a good Columbo or Matlock episode.

Shock as with many of Fox's noirs (even if Shock isn't really a noir), has been released to DVD.

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