SHOCK (1946)
Director: Alfred Werker
20th Century Fox

Years before Vincent Price established his iconic status as the “Merchant of Menace,” the actor was contracted at Universal Studios (appearing in such classics as TOWER OF LONDON and THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS) and by 1940, he made the move to 20th Century-Fox. At Fox, Price was a supporting player in such films as BRIGHAM YOUNG, THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and the unforgettable LAURA, but 1946’s SHOCK gave the rising performer his first starring role for the studio. SHOCK was shot by Fox’s “B Unit” on a budget relegated to second features, but Darryl F. Zanuck liked it enough to boost it to an “A” picture when it came time to release it.

While staying at a hotel in San Francisco, young bride Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw) waits for her husband to return home after being a POW. Glaring at the balcony across the way, she witnesses a man suddenly murder his wife by knocking her over the head with a candlestick. When Janet’s husband Paul (Frank Latimore) enters the room, he finds her in a state of shock. Paul seeks the help of psychiatrist Richard Cross (Price), who happens to be the one Janet saw commit homicide. Cross takes the woman under his care at his private sanitarium, and desperately attempts to assure her and everyone around her that she is delusional, and what she thinks she witnesses is part of a mental breakdown. Cross has the loyalty of his scheming lover Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari) – a nurse who is the only other individual who knows the truth – but with a DA (Reed Hadley) convinced that the so-called accidental death was a murder, Cross contemplates further lethal deviance to maintain his freedom.

Clocking in at 70 minutes, SHOCK is a pretty good little suspense yarn with the usual shadowy characteristics. At times it seems more of the psychological horror variant, with a dream sequence that has the panicked Janet running through a misty room, only to encounter a giant door that will not budge, as well as crazed inmate escaping from his cell on a dark and rainy night, nearly strangling a nurse to death. Suave and mild mannered as ever, Vincent Price is in top form as Cross, bordering on a “mad doctor” persona. As a seemingly kind man who murders his wife in a fit of anger, Cross shows remorse and elicits sympathy, despite his allegiance to his unscrupulous mistress a passionate love affair that only leads to more corruption, a cover-up attempt and intentional medical malpractice. Price’s tense scenes with suspicious D.A. man Reed Hadley are a highlight.

A longtime staple of public domain video and DVD releases, Fox has done the film justice with this flawless transfer. Presented in its proper full frame aspect ratio, the black and white image has excellent contrasts and a very sharp and well-detailed appearance, with no noticeable grain or print blemishes. The original mono audio track is smooth and comes off very clear, and an additional stereo track is included, as well as a mono Spanish language track.

A running audio commentary with former West Coast “Creature Features” TV host and author John Stanley is included. Stanley gives a very entertaining and thankfully unpretentious chat, sharing much information on the cast and the behind-the-scenes participants. Since Stanley interviewed Price twice (in 1979 and 1985), he reveals some great quotes and tells how the actor wanted to distance himself from the horror genre during their first encounter, but the second time around was much more content with his macabre portrayals. Stanley also attempted to interview actress Anabel Shaw (the only survivor from the cast) for this DVD, but unfortunately couldn’t make contact with her. Trailers for seven other titles in the “Fox Film Noir” series are also included, and the inside booklet contains notes and background information on the film. (George R. Reis)