Film Review: Shockproof (1949)

Also known as: The Lovers (working title)
Release Date: January 19th, 1949
Directed by: Douglas Sirk
Written by: Samuel Fuller, Helen Deutsch
Music by: George Duning
Cast: Cornel Wilde, Patricia Knight

Columbia Pictures, 79 Minutes

Review:

Shockproof is a bit of a mixed and strange bag, as far as film noirs go. The first 90 percent of the picture is really damn good. However, the ending sort of pulls everything apart.

Douglas Sirk became quite the accomplished director over the course of his career. His greatness is also very apparent in this film and for the most part, Shockproof is a fine picture. Its negative aspects really had nothing to do with Sirk’s direction, style or the narrative he intended to put to celluloid.

The problem with the film is its ending.

The script was originally written with the male lead, a parole officer, getting gunned down in a shootout with police. An act of defiance against everything he once stood for because he felt forced to fight back against a system that was driving a wedge between himself and the woman he loved, his parolee.

The studio forced a rewrite of the last few scenes and this film gets a happy ending, where there are no consequences to the actions of the main characters. What this did was discount the entire point of the story, which saw a “by the book” officer of the law fall for an ex-con that wanted to better her life. Her ex-boyfriend, a gambler with mob ties, tries to keep her on the crooked path and eventually she shoots him to protect herself and her new love. This causes the parole officer to swerve off of the straight and narrow path and to become a criminal himself.

There should have been grave and serious consequences but what we get is some bullshit happy ending where everyone gets to live out there lives like nothing bad happened. Douglas Sirk was outraged by the changes and went on to disown the film and justifiably so.

Still, this picture is solid and Sirk should have been proud of the work he did up until the studio tied his hands and imposed their power over his art.

The film is well acted by both Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight, who were actually married when this was made. I was especially impressed with Knight and am somewhat surprised that she didn’t have a big career after this. Then again, Hollywood politics were wonky back then and maybe her divorce from Wilde two years later had something to do with that.

Shockproof is certainly worth a view. It is really short too. But the positives far outweigh the negatives. Just keep in mind the ending that was originally intended, which would have possibly made this a noir classic.

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