The 1949 film noir Shockproof was a remarkable confluence of talent: star Cornel Wilde, director Douglas Sirk, cinematographer John Alton, and Samuel Fuller who devised the original story. Fuller’s title, however, was The Lovers. Shockproof is a good title but it doesn’t fit this film. Oh well, what the hell.
Cornel Wilde’s character, Griff Marat, is a solid citizen and all-around nice fella. He’s a bleeding heart parole officer with political ambitions. He lives with his widowed blind mother and spunky kid brother. All is well for him until Wilde’s then real life wife Patricia Knight enters his life.
Knight plays Jenny Marsh, a convicted murderer on parole. She’s still serving hard time: Parole for life. Initially, she tries to manipulate our hero to no avail. Wilde may be a do-gooder but he’s a hardboiled do-gooder. It’s film noir, after all.
Knight’s sleazy boyfriend Harry Wesson is played brilliantly by John Baragrey. Eddie Muller calls his character as the Oily Harry Wesson. Truer words were never spoken.
Eventually, Wilde falls in love with Knight. It had to happen. The rule of the two best-looking people in a movie kicked in. Then Wilde’s life goes off the rails. The tagline says it all: Their marriage made them fugitives.
Oddly enough, marrying her parole officer made Jenny Marsh a better person. It destroyed Griff Murat.
That’s all the plot I’m willing to share. This feature isn’t called Pulp Fiction Spoilers.
The combination of Wilde’s star power, Fuller’s hardboiled sensibility, Sirk’s artful direction, and the superb cinematography of John Alton should have made Shockproof a great film. Instead, it’s merely good because of a lousy ending. Fuller’s original ending involved a shootout. This ending was a sellout to the studio. What can ya do?
It’s a pity that Patricia Knight only made two more films after Shockproof. She was shockingly good in it…
The movie perpetuates the Hollywood cliche of a home that a character could not possibly afford. Wilde’s office is way too fancy and capacious as well:
Grading Time: Because of the crummy ending, I give Shockproof 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B.
It’s poster time. It looks as if the Oily Harry Wesson took it lying down.
It’s time to join the “let’s all go to the lobby” second line. Don’t take cuts in front of the candy. The walking soda has its back.
It’s time for color lobby cards for a black and white film theatre.
I couldn’t dig up a trailer for Shockproof, so the opening sequence, which is tres Douglas Sirk, will just have to do:
The last word goes to Eddie Muller with his Noir Alley intro and outro for Shockproof: