Tuesday, August 23, 2022

#2,804. Shockproof (1949) - Cornel Wilde Triple Feature


The fact that Douglas Sirk directed Shockproof was enough to pique my interest. The master of melodrama, Sirk helmed such classics as All That Heaven Allows, Written in the Wind, and Magnificent Obsession, and the thought of him bringing his unique touch to a film noir was intriguing, to say the least.

Throw in a screenplay penned by the great Samuel Fuller, and you have a movie firing on all cylinders, a gritty crime drama with a splash of romance.

Jenny Marsh (Patricia Knight) has just been paroled from prison, where she served five years for murder. Her parole officer, Griff Marat (Cornel Wilde), is tough on Jenny, but helps get her life back on track, setting Jenny up with a new job and a place to stay.

Things take a turn for the worse when Jenny’s old flame, gambler Harry Wesson (John Baragrey), comes calling. Harry was the reason Jenny ended up in prison (she shot a man to protect him), yet she still loves the sap.

Hoping to keep the two apart, Griff hires Jenny to act as caretaker for his blind mother (Esther Minciotti). Before long, Griff and Jenny develop feelings for one another, but will a jilted Harry allow the two to live happily ever after, or does he have a plan to break them up once and for all?

Knight and Wilde, who were actually married at the time this movie was made, both deliver strong performances; the tension that exists between their characters in the opening scene, when Griff is laying out the rules for Jenny’s parole, slowly dissipates as they spend more time together, and we hope Jenny will dump Harry and stay with Griff.

Then something happens that sends the story off in another direction, with Griff doing things he never imagined he would, all in an effort to keep Jenny from returning to prison. While Sirk works his magic in the films first half, building the relationship between his two main characters, Fuller’s knack for drumming up tension comes into play in the second half, and because we were witnesses to their blossoming romance, we root like hell for Griff and Jenny when things go south, even when they’re breaking the law.

I wasn’t too wild about the ending (which, apparently, was re-written, much to Sirk’s and Fuller’s dismay), but Shockproof still proved to be the perfect blending of writer and director, taking on the distinct personalities of both to deliver a movie that will tug at your heartstrings one minute and drag you to the edge of your seat the next.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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