© 1946 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Shock (1946)

This B thriller starts with a young woman arriving to a San Francisco hotel where she has arranged to meet her husband, a soldier who had mistakenly been reported killed in the war. When his flight is delayed, she checks into a room alone. While waiting for him to arrive, she witnesses a couple arguing in the room across the courtyard, and goes into shock when the man grabs a candlestick and bludgeons the woman to death. A psychiatrist who happens to be staying in the hotel takes her on as a patient, and brings her to his sanitarium. When she comes to, she realizes that her doctor is the very same man she had seen killing his wife. The doctor’s head nurse, who also happens to be his mistress, presses him to bump off the patient in order to prevent her from turning him in to the police.

Made a short time after Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945), which also set a thriller into the jargon of psychoanalysis, this low-budget film, which was shot in only 19 days, would have easily faded into obscurity if it were not for a few remarkably filmed sequences and an early, restrained performance by Vincent Price as the doctor torn between the Hippocratic oath and his lust for his conniving nurse. A central scene has a disturbed patient barge into the room of the comatose murder witness, who comes to and confuses the intruder with the murderer. Almost completely without dialogue, and filmed in an expressionist style, the sequence is the epitome of film noir. A later scene in which the doctor subjects his patient to a series of insulin shock treatments in order to silence her permanently is a stunningly constructed montage of hypodermic needles, calendars and medical charts.

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