Shockproof

Shockproof ★★★½

Shockproof is that cross-breed hermaphrodite: half film noir, half melodrama. Half Samuel Fuller, half Douglas Sirk. We get gritty Fuller dialogue like, “you’ve got to change your brand of men,” and Sirk’s evocative visuals, striking interior shots that do to work of a psychologist’s voice over. Idealist loner fighting the system and doomed love. The film also shares with Vertigo themes of reinvention and an obsession with a bottle-blonde Galatea.

It’s set in some fantasy world’s Department of Corrections, where earnest officers provide concierge parole services from offices designed like artists lofts. Tough Love is dispensed by-the-book, with occasion exceptions make for a hot murderess.

All implausibility is washed away because we know Patricia Knight is worth making incrementally greater ethical compromises for. Cornell Wilde portrays the sap in all of us. I can easily imagine myself, like the proverbial boiling frog, progressing by baby steps from righteous civil servant giving a gal a break to accessory-after-the-fact making a run for the border.

The studio was shocked by Fuller’s ending, as I’m sure they were of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. They brought in another screenwriter to botch things up and give the star-crossed Griff & Jenny a parole, which keeps this from being a classic in the lovers-on-the-run genre. My own imagined ending has the Miltonian serpent Harry awaking from a coma in the hospital and saying the shooting was an accident. But word of the exoneration can’t reach Griff and Jenny before they attempt some futile blaze-of-glory act.

I have no idea how the boys in Marketing decided on the irrelevant “Shockproof” as a title. Fuller himself was shockproof and unconcerned: “Apparently they didn't like my title, so the studio renamed it Shockproof. One of my postwar scripts had finally been made into a movie, so I didn't give a damn what they called it.”

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