Isn't It Shocking?

Isn't It Shocking? is a made-for-television comedy-mystery film that aired on the ABC network in 1973 as an ABC Movie of the Week. Written by Lane Slate, it stars Alan Alda, Louise Lasser and Edmond O'Brien, and was directed by John Badham.

Isn't It Shocking?
Isn't It Shocking.jpg
Written byLane Slate
Directed byJohn Badham
StarringAlan Alda
Louise Lasser
Edmond O'Brien
Ruth Gordon
Lloyd Nolan
Music byDavid Shire
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducersRon Bernstein
Howard Rosenman
Production locationsMount Angel, Oregon
CinematographyJack Woolf
EditorHenry Berman
Running time73 minutes
Production companyABC Circle Films
Original networkABC
Original releaseOctober 2, 1973 (1973-10-02)


Dan Barnes (Alan Alda) is the police chief of tiny Mt. Angel, Oregon, population 1360. Barnes' life is complicated by a romance with a local motel owner who is eager to have him move in with her and her young children. Despite trying to keep his private life private, the relationship is well known in the community, especially to his co-workers.

His life is further complicated when the sleepy village is beset by a killer preying on the elderly.

The first victim is Janet Barber, who is found nude. She appears to have died in her sleep of a heart attack. Barnes finds it odd that the elderly Barber did not appear to have owned a nightgown or pajamas. Barber's husband, Ralph, who had been out of town when she died, is later found dead in the nude also.

When Barnes' lieutenant, Jesse Chapin (Lloyd Nolan), dies of an apparent heart attack at 63, Barnes suspects murder. An autopsy discovers that Chapin's corpse has an unusual odor, like turpentine or nutmeg. Chapin's faithful dog, which had been missing, is later found dead. The dog's corpse has the same odor, and there are burn marks on its fur.

The police receptionist, Blanche (Louise Lasser), has an epiphany about the human victims: they were all part of the local high school's graduating class of 1928. She and Barnes pore through a yearbook and identify a potential victim. When Barnes drives to the person's isolated house, his police cruiser is rammed and disabled by another automobile, which turns around to finish him off. Barnes escapes into the woods. Circling around to the isolated house, he finds the owner already dead.

After a fifth member of the class of '28 dies of a heart attack, the coroner reports that the odor is from conductive gel used with defibrillators. He recommends that a modified defibrillator is being used to induce heart attacks.

Because the class of '28 was small, the limited evidence and process of elimination leads Barnes to suspect another member of that class, Justin Oates (Edmond O'Brien). Until recently, Oates was a guest at Barnes' girlfriend's motel. Barnes tracks him down and arrests him. An evaluation reveals that Oates felt mistreated by his classmates, but old wounds were reopened when Ralph Barber began having an extramarital affair with Oates' high school sweetheart. It is recommended that he be remanded to the care of a mental health facility for the criminally insane.

A subplot woven throughout concerns Barnes considering a job offer from a nearby town that might make it easier to settle down with his girlfriend. Barnes ultimately turns it down and decides to stay in Mt. Angel.


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