Friday, June 20, 2014


Directed by Douglas Sirk and written by Samuel Fuller and Helen Deutsch from a story by Fuller, Shockproof is the story of a parole officer who falls in love with his parolee as he tries to help with some issues that put her in jail as she would do the same in his own issues. The film is an exploration into a relationship between two people that is considered taboo as they would do whatever it takes to help each other. Starring Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight. Shockproof is an engaging and stylish suspense film from Douglas Sirk.

The film explores this unlikely love story between a parole officer and a parolee where the latter is being pursued by gambler forcing the straight-laced parole officer to break some of his own rules. It’s a film that is a mesh of different styles ranging from suspense to melodrama as the former features much of the grimy, pulp style of its co-writer Samuel Fuller while the latter plays into the sensibilities of its director Douglas Sirk. Though the result is an uneven affair with a more conventional ending that doesn’t feature neither sensibilities of Fuller and Sirk. It is still an interesting story where the parole officer Griff Marat (Cornel Wilde) tries to make sure that Jenny Marsh (Patricia Knight) doesn’t go back to jail as she would try to seduce him for her former boyfriend in the renowned gambler Harry Wesson (John Baragrey). Instead, things don’t got as planned where Marsh starts to fall for Marat and realizes all of the good things he’s done though Marat would feel like he’s being played for a fool until he does things that goes against everything he stands for.

Sirk’s direction is quite simple in terms of how he frames his characters in close-ups and in medium shots. Notably as Sirk would infuse some noir-style settings to convey a mood to showcase Marsh’s own internal conflict in her feelings for Marat as well as her loyalty to Wesson. Some of which involved some stylish shots as well as thrilling moments where Sirk infuses much of Fuller’s language into some suspenseful moments. Especially as the stakes become much higher in its third act where Marsh and Marat go on the run from the authorities as Sirk would put some drama over the struggle they go through as they realize that might have nowhere else to go. Yet, it ends on a conventional note which does indicate that there was some studio interference into what they wanted rather what Sirk wanted. Despite the flaws in the film, Sirk does manage to create a very exciting and compelling film about a parole officer who falls in love with a parolee.

Cinematographer Charles Lawton Jr. does excellent work with the film’s black-and-white photography where much of it is straightforward for its daytime exteriors while going for more stylish lights for its nighttime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Gene Havlick does nice work with the editing with its use of dissolves and some straightforward cuts to play with its drama and suspense. Art director Carl Anderson and set decorator Louis Dage do brilliant work with the set pieces from the home that Marat lives in with his family as well as the office where he works. Costume designer Jean Louis does fantastic work with the design of the dresses and gowns that Marsh wears. Sound engineer Lodge Cunningham does terrific work with some of the sound work such as the oil mill that Marat and Marsh would live near in the film‘s third act. The film’s music by George Duning is wonderful for its orchestral score as it is filled with soaring arrangements to play with its melodrama and suspense.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small performances from Charles Bates as Marat’s kid-brother Tommy, Gilbert Barnett as Tommy’s friend Barry, Russell Collins as one of Marat’s parolees whom he’s friends with, Howard St. John as Marat’s boss, and Esther Minciotti as Marat’s blind mother whom Marsh would become friends with. John Baragrey is excellent as Marsh’s former boyfriend Harry Wesson who is eager to get Marsh back into his world of crime as well as ruin Marat only to realize that Marat is a hard nut to crack. Patricia Knight is brilliant as Jenny Marsh as this woman who is released for a five-year prison sentence for murder as she is torn between a life of crime and a more simpler life that Marat surrounds himself with where Knight adds that anguish into her performance. Finally, there’s Cornel Wilde in an amazing performance as Griff Marat as this straight-laced parole officer who falls for Marsh as he tries desperately to help her while coming to terms with his actions and breaking away from his ideals.

Shockproof is a worthwhile film from Douglas Sirk that features some excellent performances from Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight as well some of the stylish dialogue of Samuel Fuller. Though it’s a very uneven film in tone as well as a pretty unbelievable ending that is against the traits of both Sirk and Fuller. It is still an enjoyable film that showcases an unlikely collaboration between two of cinema’s great figures. In the end, Shockproof is a pretty good film from Douglas Sirk.

Douglas Sirk Films: (t Was een April) - (The Court Concert) - (To New Shores) - (La Habanera) - (Boefje) - (Hitler’s Madman) - (Summer Storm) - (A Scandal in Paris) - (Lured) - (Sleep My Love) - (Thunder on the Hill) - (No Room for the Groom) - (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?) - (Meet Me at the Fair) - (Take Me to Town) - (All I Desire) - (Taza, Son of Cochise) - Magnificent Obsession (1954 film) - (Sign of the Pagan) - (Captain Lightfoot) - All That Heaven Allows - There’s Always Tomorrow (1956 film) - (Never Say Goodbye) - Written on the Wind - (Battle Hymn) - (Interlude) - (The Tarnished Angels) - (A Time to Love and A Time to Die) - Imitation of Life (1959 film)

© thevoid99 2014

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