Lon Chaney portrays a handicapped gangster who discovers his own heart when he falls in love with the daughter of the gang’s target of revenge. This Universal production, directed by Lambert Hillyer, is reminiscent — in tone and material — of Chaney’s films for the Goldwyn studio.
When he is assigned an undercover job in a small town, Wilse Dilling (Chaney) unexpectedly discovers that their are life options beyond those he has found in the criminal underworld of the big city. Young Gertrude Hadley (the lovely Virginia Valli) mentors Dilling’s revelation, and in turn becomes the object of his amorous fixation. He soon learns that she is in love with Jack Cooper (the stiff Jack Mower) and must resign himself to hopelessness, because in his mind Dilling equates love with redemption, and without love his life is doomed.
Gertrude’s father, banker Micha Hadley (William Welsh), has embezzled bank funds for the sake of another woman. Underworld leader and Dilling’s boss Queen Ann (Christine Mayo), threatens him with prison for revenge. Dilling is torn between good and evil, and confronts Hadley who attacks him.
To cover Hadley’s crime, Dilling dynamites the bank, making it look like a robbery attempt. Hadley and his reputation are saved, but Gertrude is accidentally caught in the blast. When he learns that she may now be crippled as he is, Dilling is wracked with guilt. Learning the whole story of Queen Ann’s involvement in the tragedy, Dilling vows to break the grip she has on Hadley’s life.
Traveling back to the big city, Dilling soon learns that Queen Ann has made new plans to destroy Hadley’s life through his daughter, whose health has been assured by a big city surgeon. Searching Queen Ann’s house for the papers that incriminate Hadley, Dilling is frustrated by his inability to reach a high wall safe. He tries to enlist the help of the namby-pamby Cooper, who is actionless because he has decided he will not marry Gertrude.
Through her machinations, all are caught in Queen Ann’s treacherous web: Hadley, Dilling, Cooper and now Gertrude. Only an act of God can save them — and does.
The Shock is notable for being one of the few times in Chaney’s films that he appears to win the affections of the woman of his dreams. — Carl Bennett
Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID0318DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-03182-9.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region 1NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in windowboxed 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 6.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 16 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $24.99.
Release date: 30 July 2002.
Country of origin: USA
This 1995 home video edition produced by David Shepard has been mastered from a very-good (what appears to be) 35mm duplicate negative, which is nonetheless a little jittery throughout the film — the most-distracting flaw of the source material. The print is also lightly speckled and scuffed, with a very light presence of dust and other minor types of print damage. Generally, the print is easy and clear viewing, with a broad range of image tones that feature open and detailed shadow areas and clearly-defined highlights. We are grateful for the windowboxed transfer, which is generously framed and ensures that all of the available picture image should be viewable on all television monitors.
The film is excellently accompanied by a piano and ensemble performance arranged and directed by the always-reliable Robert Israel. The quality of his work continues to impress us.
Overall, this is the best home video edition of The Shock (1923) available and remains the best value for the quality of its picture and its musical accompaniment, and for its pairing with a lesser-known Chaney northwoods drama, Nomads of the North (1920).
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2003 DVD edition
The Shock (1923), black & white, 64 minutes, not rated.
Alpha Video, ALP 4145D, UPC 0-89218-41459-5.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 5.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 6 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $6.98 (raised to $7.98).
Release date: 15 April 2003.
Country of origin: USA
This DVD edition has been transferred full-frame from a very-good 16mm reduction print, apparently originally sourced from the same print material as the Image edition above. The full-frame transfer will render a little less image area than Image’s windowboxed transfer due to overscan cropping on most television monitors. The disc has also been excessively compressed, as any still frame will reveal, but the image in motion is more than passably detailed and exceeds the quality of most other budget editions of silent era films. The print is lightly speckled, with a little dust, scuffing, scratches, and other minor print damage.
The film is accompanied by a canned score compiled from a number of preexisting orchestral recordings.
This DVD is better than other budget discs, but we still prefer the Image edition above for its higher-quality picture and Robert Israel score.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.