movie review – Shockproof (1949)

What did I watch? the 1949 romantic crime conundrum Shockproof

Is it about an electrician? No.

Is it about rubber and conductivity? No.

How was C2E2? Oh, it was great. If you stopped by my table, thank you. Lots of positive vibes about the RwC comics. I have comic strips and some other drawings to clean up and put on the site, and also maybe Coloring Book #2 layout for an October release. But anyway, on to the movie:

Shockproof is a simple yet interesting melodrama with increasing levels of suspense as our lovers from opposite sides of the tracks commit to each other after a deadly interaction. It’s about Jenny, who just got out of prison after five years. Her boyfriend Harry is a gambler. Her parole officer is Griff, who warns Jenny to stay away from Harry. He sets Jenny up with a job at an accounting firm (always a bad idea, right? Criminals looking at financial statements?) and apartment, where Harry shows up to reunite with Jenny.

Harry and Jenny go to a casino to meet with another parolee who promises, like Ed The Disappearer in Breaking Bad (that’s the only comparison I’m going to make) to arrange a fake family out of town to vouch for her to get her transferred out of Griff’s supervision. Then, in what must be a deleted scene or no budget to film a police raid on the casino, Jenny and another excon are brought to Griff for violating parole for being at the casino. The other excon jumps to his death for fear of going back. Griff sends Jenny to a doctor who broadcasts their conversation to Griff on a closed circuit radio to see what makes Jenny tick. She’s very in love with Harry. So Griff decides to get super involved and changes Jenny’s job to being the caretaker for his blind mother and to live at his place, which has to be a violation of several ethics but this leads to their cutesy romance.

They fall for each other, which Harry thinks is a ruse. Harry thinks Jenny can spy on Griff and eventually expose Griff, if nothing else for getting close to Jenny, and ruining Griff’s political ambition of running for office. There’s a lot promising to go on but really that’s pretty much it. Jenny really does fall for Griff and she goes to Harry to tell him that her love is real and that once she’s free of her parole, they’ll get married or something. A gun is produced, Jenny grabs it and shoots Harry, and runs.

Griff goes in only one direction of grooming Jenny to fall for him by giving her a job with his family and being around him all the time and being sweet on her etc.: Griff takes her and they go on the run, obviously throwing away his career and political ambitions. It turns out in my lifetime that this would be one of the less scandalous things someone can do before running for office (and winning, and doing worse).

From here begins the it-just-gets-worse for our lovers as their names are broadcast on the radio, the details of his car, the previous sighting, and it feels like everyone is on to them mere steps away from the next scenario where they’ll be recognized. They eventually end up at an oil well where he takes a job and she dyes her hair. They grow paranoid as their neighbors look at the newspaper that describes their whereabouts and appearances, look at them, look at the paper, look at them, and then are like “she looks like this gal on the run but dyed her hair, what’s for dinner?”

So Griff and Jenny turn themselves in, and it turns out that Harry is still alive – he managed to recover from his serious gunshot wound. They go to him to see if he will press charges, and he’s like “whatever, get out of here you two and make some babies.” The end.

WOW, a happy ending! Right? Roll credits without seeing what sort of board review strings Griff up or fires him. I mean he’s at least abandoned his government job, right? Are they going to give it back to him and let bygones be bygones because he found true love? I was told at my state university job that if I didn’t call in two days in a row my job would be considered abandoned and I’d lose my benefits. Maybe he can retroactively submit an FMLA. “I was on leave for aiding and abetting my family.”

Was it bad? I kid, I kid, I found the drama and set up compelling. It’s a little hokey, and the ending is at the very least convenient, especially since we don’t see any legal repercussions for Jenny or Griff. You still shot a dude, lady! There’s also some pretty good cinematography here, given that most of it takes place in boring offices and stuffy homes.

That said, the ending is kind of a copout. There are protagonists in noir who have done maybe less with a heftier price to pay, or maybe I just think abusing your position in rehabilitating criminals and then abandoning it to take one on the run because you’ve fallen in love with her (when she even asks to turn herself in) is worse than robbing a bank…or that in other movies we’d see that repercussion. The story was written by Sam Fuller, a man with a heavy mind who stares hard at his typewriter, spilling out the dark truths of what is behind the façade of everyday life and society. (I covered his hard hitting, more salacious, and fun Scandal Sheet last year). According to the Wikipedia, Sam’s ending may have been more violent, and it was rewritten with a more upbeat ending.

It’s brief, it looks good, it’s odd that there’s a scene missing where Jenny gets arrested again for being at the casino, you get drawn into their paranoia as they’re on the run. It’s a fun love story that may have seemed messed up back in the day but seems pretty tame now, I’m sure. Give it a shot.

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