Isn’t It Shocking? (1973)

Article 4597 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-2-2014
Directed by John Badham
Featuring Alan Alda, Edmond O’Brien, Louise Lasser
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho-killer crime thriller

A stranger comes to a small village and begins knocking off senior citizens with an electric shock machine that brings on heart attacks. The local sheriff becomes suspicious of the run of heart attacks, and begins investigating.

Sometimes, a movie just does so many things right that it becomes a joy to watch. Though the premise is a bit on the grim side, it has a surprisingly witty and fun script. It’s also got an excellent cast of familiar faces (the ones mentioned above, Lloyd Nolan, Will Geer and Ruth Gordon) all working at the top of their form. It’s something of a mystery, but not in the usual sense; we may know who is committing the murders and how he’s doing them (which is established in the opening scene), but it’s the reasons for the murders that aren’t revealed until the end of the movie. The characters are likable enough so that we care what happens to them; we grow especially attached to Lloyd Nolan’s character, but both Will Geer’s crusty old coroner and Ruth Gordon’s crazy cat lady steal the movie. There are a few story flaws here and there, but I found the movie so much fun that they really didn’t matter. There are a number of TV-Movies out there that may be better than this one, but I can’t think of any that were more enjoyable to watch.

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