Wednesday, June 6, 2012

169. GASLIGHT (1944)

Running Time: 114 minutes
Directed By: George Cukor
Written By: John Van Druten, Walter Reisch, John L. Balderston, from the play Angel Street by Patrick Hamilton
Main Cast: Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Angela Lansbury, Barbara Everest
Click here to view the trailer


Finally I get to this one, after announcing I'd be watching about a week ago. I began to watch this one sometime last week, when I fell asleep on it (my fault, not the film's) and for one reason or another didn't return to it the next night. Last night, I started it up again, when again I got drowsy and decided to stop it, as I didn't want my opinion of it to suffer, due to my sleepy state. Tonight I finally made it to the end and it was worth the wait.

The film opens by revealing that a murder has just been committed in Thornton Square in London, as the death of Alice Alquist, famous opera singer, is announced in the newspaper. We then cut to the Alquist residence, where Paula Alquist (Bergman), Alice's niece is being ushered out of her aunt's former home and into a waiting carriage. She's being taken to Italy to focus on her singing career and try and recoup after the death of her aunt, the woman who raised her. While in Italy, Paula meets and falls in love with Gregory Anton (Boyer), a pianist and the two are soon swept away on a whirling romance that ends in marriage. At the insistence of Gregory, the two return to London and the former home of Alice Alquist, which has been willed to Paula and reside there. After arriving back in London is when things take a more unusual turn, as Gregory begins acting stranger by the day, for instance, becoming infuriated when Paula begins to read a letter written to her aunt by a man named Sergius Bauer. However, for the most part the couple seem happy at first, Paula smitten with Gregory and Gregory overprotective of Paula. As the film continues, Gregory starts to suggest that Paula may be losing her mind, citing that she frequently misplaces items and forgets many things. Paula brushes off the notion at first, but is soon convinced that she's going mad. It becomes even more unsettling when Paula begins to hear noises coming from the attic at night and noticing the gas lights around the house going dim, when no one else seems to notice these things. But is there more to Paula's madness than meets the eye?


The book notes that the plot of "Gaslight" is very thin and I'd be forced to agree with that assessment. What it really all boils down to is a desperate man searching for missing, valuable jewels and in the process he is forced to murder for them. The whole core of the film, of Gregory trying to convince Paula that she's going insane, is simply so he can have her committed, take control of her property and search for the jewels with freedom. It's as thin as a balding man's hair, but it still manages to work, thanks mostly to the cast and the direction. Charles Boyer is marvelous and I'm left wondering why more of his films aren't included in the book, because to my knowledge this is the only one. In fact, I have to admit that I'm pretty sure this was my first Charles Boyer film, as I was completely unaware of him prior to this evening. Ingrid Bergman grew on me, as I didn't care for her character at first, but by the end I realized that Bergman was really putting on a performance here and was able to give her her credit due. The rest of the supporting players were also fine and the only one that left me scratching my head was Joseph Cotten. Normally I love Joseph Cotten, and it's not that he was bad here, it's just that he was out of place. His role really wasn't that substantial and he was just kind of there, while he waited for his character to really shine in the final fifteen minutes of the picture.

The film does a fine job mixing up the genres of murder mystery, film noir and horror and it all makes for a really chilling little film where the viewer will be sure to have questions galore. In fact, you may even leave with some unanswered questions, as the film does leave a few loose ends untied. Why the hostility between Paula and Nancy? Why did the two exchange that mysterious look when they were first introduced? The film really leads you on, as far as what's actually happening in the film. I thought for sure the movie was going to pull a total 180 on me and reveal that, indeed Paula was going mad and Charles Boyer was the loving, protective husband who was just trying to help her this whole time. That's a credit to the film, that it can get you to convince yourself of two different outcomes and have you satisfied with whichever one actually happens. The film drops in so many different, little details too that your mind is left whirling and wondering what in the hell is going on with Gregory. It's really a whole lot of fun!

RATING: 7.5/10  Very good, but was it good enough to nab a spot on the TOP 20 or is it simply another really good film in a batch of really great films that won't get recognized?


June 6, 2012  2:17am

1 comment:

  1. Just out of interest to see if I can get a rise from any other UK readers .. I will utter the following gnomic 4 words

    "The Helen Titchener story"


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