This may be a plodding B noir, but it has the terrific queen of the B's, Lynn Bari
Aug 31, 2011
What is there about cheap B-movie noirs from the Forties that make them so perfect a way to waste a couple of hours? For the most part, there's usually just adequate acting, deadly serious detectives, obvious music scores and plodding direction. My guess is that it's the comfort of the predictable, the efficient style (Shock takes only 70 minutes and was shot in 19 days), the black-and-white noir look achieved with lots of night scenes and odd dark shadows, the undemanding plots and, of course, the murders. It helps, too, if you're on the brink of doddering old age and can remember watching some of them in your neighborhood movie house.
In Shock, young wife Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw) arrives at the Belmont Arms Hotel in San Francisco to meet her soldier husband, Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore). He's coming home after two years as a prisoner of war. There's a mix-up with her reservation and then her husband doesn't arrive. The hotel manager let's her stay overnight in a suite, and there she not only has a nightmare but, looking out the window into the adjoining suite, she witnesses a man use a heavy candlestick to crush his wife's skull. When her husband arrives the next morning, he finds her in a catatonic state of shock. And guess which psychiatrist who has a suite in the hotel is called upon to examine her. (No spoilers here. All is known in the first six minutes.) Yes, it's Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price)...the man who is the murderer.
It's not long before Dr. Cross has convinced Lt. Stewart to let him care for his wife at his private sanatorium. Death may be one of the therapies he prescribes for her. Egging him on is his lover, nurse Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari), a woman who sees nothing especially wrong with mixing up injections, turning a deranged patient on to young Janet, overdosing Janet with insulin as part of shock therapy or just having her committed to an insane asylum for life. Nurse Jordan must have missed the class on do no harm.
Let's face it, Shock is plodding but it has three advantages. First, as noted, is the comfort of the predictable. We're a step ahead of the writer and director all of the time. Even the half-hearted twist gives us a quiet smile of superiority. Outguessing journeymen directors and writers may not seem like much, but it's better than napping.
Second, the movie has a nice noir look. There's a nifty nightmare scene, some terrific shadows and a scary night scene with that deranged patient creeping around the sanatorium.
Last...and first...is Lynn Bari. She was a first-class actor who never was able to break into A-movie lead roles. Bari was versatile and believable. She was sexy, all right, and could be warm, scheming, supportive, destructive, noble, vicious, friendly, you name it. She was queen of the Bs. Just look at her here as a scheming nurse, and then look at her in two other movies from 1946. In Nocturne, she pairs with George Raft and is amusing and desirable. In Home Sweet Homicide, she's the mother of three kids and a mystery writer. Bari makes a great mom as well as a great love interest for a bachelor police detective. Not least, Bari had one of the sexiest speaking voices in the movies. I'd put her photo in my wallet any day.
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About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer (Charley2)
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more