VOD film review: Shock (1946)
James R | On 28, Nov 2020
Director: Alfred L Weker
Cast: Vincent Price, Anabel Shaw, Lynn Bari
Watch Shock (1946) online in the UK: Amazon Prime
The words “Vincent Price” and “film noir” don’t usually go together, which is all the more reason for this underrated gem to be put on your radar.
Price plays Dr Cross, a psychiatrist who is called in to treat Janet (Anabel Shaw), a young woman who is suffering from severe shock. The traumatising event? A murder that she witnessed from her balcony, as a man beat his wife to death with a candlestick. But the biggest shock is yet to come for Janet: the murderer is none other than Dr Cross himself. That fiendishly riveting revelation is just the starting point for Alfred Werker’s tense tiller.
Price made a name for himself in horror, but also delved into villainous noir roles, and also stole scenes in Otto Preminger’s seminal noir Laura two years before this. It’s hard to imagine better casting, as Price’s unctuous vocals are both instantly reassuring and calming yet also horribly unsettling. What ensues is a particularly intense tale of gaslighting, as Price tries to convince Janet – and everyone else – that she’s projecting the image of a killer on to him and that she needs more serious medical treatment. Anabel Shaw is excellent as the tormented, vulnerable woman, and her performance is backed up by a dream sequence and a heightened score that matches her stress.
We, of course, already know that Dr Cross is guilty, which adds to the initial pay-off when she works out why she recognises the man responsible for taking care of her (in all senses of the word) – and it instils a sense of inevitable fate, not only for Janet but for Dr Cross, whose moral transgression must unavoidably meet some kind of punishment. Eugene Ling and Albert DeMond’s script doubles down on that darkly gripping mood with the introduction of Elaine (Lynn Bari), a fabulous femme fatale who is Dr Cross’ nurse and lover, nudging him to go one step further and remove Janet from the picture so they can be together. What’s darkest of all is that even when there are glimpses of a conscience and redemption for the doctor, he still finds himself only able to solve the situation in a violent way.
Clocking at a mere 70 minutes, the result is a claustrophobic chamber piece that finds horror and thrills in an unforgettable set-up. Filmed in 19 days, that momentum spills over on to the screen and keeps you hooked from beginning to end.
Shock (1946) is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.