Contact me at because I'm always up for a natter about anything. Well, mostly.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Classic Film Review: Gaslight (1940)

This review relates to the British version of Gaslight, released in 1940 starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard. It's based on Patrick Hamilton's play of two years earlier and, I think, follows the plot closely, even if the name of the main character is altered. Paul Mallen (Walbrook) and his wife Bella (Wynyard) move into a house which has been unoccupied since the murder of Alice Barlow twenty years ago. They are joined in the house by servants Elizabeth (Minnie Rayner) and Nancy (Cathleen Cordell) but it soon becomes clear that this is no idyllic marriage. Bella, it seems, is losing her mind and hiding things before claiming she has no knowledge of their whereabouts. The audience is soon let in on the fact that Paul's to blame for the objects moving and that his intention is to drive his wife insane.

Gaslight is a atmospheric film. While Walbrook was very much a stereotypical villain, I enjoyed Wynyard's portrayal of Bella. However, my favourite moments came courtesy of Frank Pettingell as Rough, a former detective involved in the original murder case. His interest is piqued by the arrival of Mallen, whom he immediately identifies as the nephew of the murder victim. He attempts to discover more, partly by befriending Bella and partly by using his employee's relationship with Nancy the parlourmaid. Paul Mallen is also utilising the parlourmaid for entertainment of his own.

Knowing what's going on gives the audience an edge over Bella and it creates unbearable suspense as Paul manipulates her more and more. The final few scenes were very good, particularly as Bella uses his own manipulations against Paul. For me, though, my favourite scene was Rough charging a hoop at Bella and her dog as an excuse to make her acquaintance. I loved that scene and I can't even explain why. Pettingell's an actor I want to look out for in other films and, yes, I would like to see the MGM version of Gaslight (1944, with Angela Lansbury as Nancy) at some point in the future.

No comments: