Netflix Noir: I Wake Up Screaming (1941), Shock (1946), and Fear in the Night (1947)
It’s no coincidence that I Wake Up Screaming, Shock, and Fear in the Night all share the common thread of nightmares that foreshadow terrifying days. Nightmares are the stuff of film noir; when someone isn’t having one, he is living one. And all the interesting things happen in the night.
DeForest Kelley made his big-screen debut in Fear in the Night, a movie so hokey we hesitate to share the plot. It’s a b-movie from a short story by Cornell Woolrich that might have well sustained an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but as a full-length feature leaves us laughing.
A young bank teller (Kelley) wakes up one morning after having an awful dream, full of violence and blood. How bad was the dream? He was so upset by it he couldn’t go to work for a week. He doesn’t recall all the details, but soon finds evidence that it may not have been a dream. Okay, so the guy thinks he may have somehow been involved in a murder, so who does he tell? His brother-in-law, the police detective.
Before you know it, our boy is wanted for a double homicide—and you thought you had things to kvetch about? Viewers will find it difficult to avoid running gags about the guy’s sister who is in a very delicate condition (aka pregnant). Sappy dialogue, plot holes, a mirrored octagonal room, and hypnosis all contribute to the length of Fear in the Night, but aren’t necessarily assets. It’s good for a few laughs and obnoxious remarks, but a lightweight entry in film noir.
Shock is distinguished by the appearance of Vincent Price as a shady psychologist. He wasn’t always shady…until the night he killed his wife. Being part moron, he did it in front of an open window with the curtains also open. Oh, yeah, and it was in a hotel where the chick in the next room could plainly hear and see what was happening. When the chick’s husband comes home he finds his wife in a state of—what else--Shock. He rings for the hotel doctor, who suggests that there is an excellent psychiatrist also living in the hotel who is better qualified to treat the patient.Continued on the next page