With her patrician curls, sophisticated kewpie features and a distinctive, oceanic voice calmed by smoked whisky undertones, Southern bred Lynn Bari (1913-1989) dominated B-movies (and the occasional major feature such as Blood and Sand) from the 1930’s until the early 1960’s. Often cast as a seductress, Bari could play noble just as efficiently, and two of her starring mid-period roles found her tangling with the king of fright, on one hand, and an exotic heartthrob, on the other.
Shock. 1946. A young war bride witnesses a psychiatrist’s (played by Lord of the Goth, Vincent Price) crime of passion against his much older wife and in a state of mute horror, soon finds herself trapped at the asylum that he runs.
There, Price’s character struggles with his conscience, as he tries to deal with covering up his murderous rampage while simultaneously caring for the welfare of his young victim. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, as the case may truly be) Nurse Elaine Jordan, his lover, played with clipped control by Bari, has no such sympathies and as twists in the case arise, she becomes determined to rid the world of the one person with any knowledge of her paramour’s wrongdoing.
Filmed briskly by director Alfred L. Werker, Shock’s one true moment of camera-action beauty occurs as a frantic Bari runs across the wind tossed estate of the medical facility to Price’s quarters. The buildings and alleyways loom ominously as Bari sprints, majestically, to her destination and there is more tension in this short sequence than in the majority of the film’s other twisted occurrences.
Pedestrian, yet fun, Shock’s title, ultimately, refers not only to the young married’s initial response to Price’s act but also to the malevolent death Bari prescribes for her – a slow death by insulin shock poisoning.
The Amazing Mr. X. 1948. Here, as regal widow Christine Faber, Bari is the unwitting victim. Walking along a rocky seascape near her house one evening, Faber is surprised by the handsome Mr. X, aka Alexis, (European stud Turhan Bey) whom possesses intimate knowledge of the details of her life.
A supposed clairvoyant, Mr. X soon has Faber and her young, live-in sister, wrapped up in his mystical palms. Despite eventual evidence of X’s underhandedness, Faber still goes through with a séance to contact her deceased husband – where things ultimately begin to unravel in a deadly manner.
Silkily proud, Bari’s Faber is a strong, yet vulnerable woman and the moody, fog ridden cinematography (masterfully composed by John Alton) not only creates a sense of beautiful tension for the feature itself, but drapes Bari’s elegant features with a misty, haunted precision as well.
Containing several outright shocks (especially during the film’s final reel), director Bernard Vorhaus brings out more in the film’s modest budget than would be expected, making The Amazing Mr. X, a step above normal B movie fare – eventually exposing itself as a proud achievement for Bari.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!