It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Movie Challenge …. Shockproof (1949)
I had noticed this film was listed in the TCM guide for January 2016 and had every intention of making an attempt to watch it. That notion was cast in cement when Kristina of Speakeasy issued it to me as a challenge. Once again for the uninitiated, it’s when Kristina and myself challenge each other to finally watch a film that the other has yet to see.
From director Douglas Sirk by way of a Samuel Fuller script we have a tale of deceit and Noir overtones starring Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight. Wilde is the parole officer and Knight is his blonde haired bombshell assignment. Can you see where this is headed?
Knight wants nothing more than to resume her dead end love affair with low life John Baragrey. Baragrey must have been cast here when Zachary Scott wasn’t available as his role has Scott’s type written boldly across the screenplay pages. Cornel warns them both that if they persist in seeing each other it’s back to prison for Knight after a five year stretch for manslaughter.
Cornel feels there’s a warm heart under Knight’s rough exterior and let’s face it, if she looked liked Ellen Corby or Thelma Ritter he’d have probably sent her back up the river by now. He’s so enamored of the icy temptress that he takes her home for a home cooked meal and to meet his Mother who happens to be blind. Since she’s having a hard time keeping a steady job, he hires her as a live in Nanny of sorts to help Mama around the house.
She still can’t shake Baragrey and when Cornel breaks down and confesses his love and hope of marriage, Baragrey urges her to marry her parole officer as it’s against regulations. In essence, she can do as she wishes, blackmail Cornel and run off with her seedy lover.
Could real love enter into the plot? What if Baragrey finds out a marriage has already occurred and he himself threatens the lovely looking couple? What if someone places a well aimed bullet in this Zachary Scott wannabe?
That’s all you’ll get out of me concerning this tight little black and white feature released by Columbia studios.
First bit of trivia that grabbed me during the films opening is it was partially filmed in The Bradbury building. It has a very distinct interior that you’ll recognize immediately. It’s been put to use in countless features including Bladerunner, Chinatown and thrillingly in Murphy’s Law for us members of the Bronson crowd.
Leading lady Knight is someone I wasn’t familiar with and low and behold I discover she was married to her leading man Cornel Wilde at the time of this film’s production. Her career on screen was a short one. She only has five movie credits to her name according to IMDB. She retired from the screen not long after her marriage to Wilde came to a halt in 1951.
Cornel Wilde is one of those leading men that seems to have been lost through the cracks of time to the casual film goer. That’s kind of sad as he could play a variety of roles and even moved behind the camera to deliver some rugged efforts including The Naked Prey which is one I love to recommend from his later career. When it comes to working with his spouse on screen, I usually recall the work he did with what turns out to be his second wife, Jean Wallace. She appeared in numerous Cornel projects including his Noir classic The Big Combo.
Douglas Sirk was a prolific director of the fifties and helmed a whole slate of successful films that have come to be highly regarded as the years have past. Mainly Rock Hudson titles like Written On the Wind and The Tarnished Angels.
Our writer Samuel Fuller would begin his directing career the same year as this release and give us films of varying degrees but always with a hint of independence in their productions. As for the script he supplies for this film I have only one thing to say………
Fuller may have wrote it, Sirk may have directed it but the front office obviously took it away for a fast re-write to give us an implausible ending. Thus practically ruining a nifty little thriller. Not sure who to point the finger at but it is Harry Cohn’s studio so I guess he’ll have to take the brunt of my disappointment.
Now it’s time to head over and see what title I have assigned to Kristina this month. I will say I have long championed the film and I hope she enjoys it as much as I have in the past. It’s a Euro horror title that comes across as an art house flick for the vampire crowd. Let’s see what she thinks……… click here.