On Gaslight

I have always loved Angela Lansbury, so of course I had to watch her film debut, Gaslight. According to The New York Times review:

That dark and shivering study of Victorian villainy which has been shaking the boards of Broadway for more than two years under the title of “Angel Street” is now doing similar violence to the Capitol Theatre’s screen, where it arrived yesterday under the no more illuminating title of “Gaslight.” But don’t let that mellow come-on fool you, all ye who enter here. Prepare yourselves rather for a lengthy and restless stretch on tenterhooks. For Metro has given a pungent production to the Patrick Hamilton play. It has used Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer in the dominant roles of the distraught wife and her wicked spouse. And it has pulled such a ticklish assortment of melodramatic camera tricks that the audience was giggling with anxiety at a performance yesterday.

Maybe we shouldn’t tell you what it is all about, even though that knowledge is rather general with theatre-goers by now. But we can, at least, slip the information that the study is wholly concerned with the obvious endeavors of a husband to drive his wife slowly mad. And with Mr. Boyer doing the driving in his best dead-pan hypnotic style, while the flames flicker strangely in the gas-jets and the mood music bongs with heavy threats, it is no wonder that Miss Bergman goes to pieces in a most distressing way. Both of these popular performers play their roles right to the hilt.

Nice little personality vignettes are interestingly contributed, too, by Joseph Cotten as a stubborn detective, Dame May Whitty and Angela Lansbury as a maid. But it must be stated frankly that the film doesn’t match the play, mainly because of circumstances of an ambiguous physical sort. The play, by its rigid confinement within the limitations of one room, prevades the spectator with the horror and frustration of a claustrophobic mood. One is dragged imperceptibly right up there into that room and made to experience the same emotions as the bewildered and fear-driven wife. But the very flexibility of the camera, the constant cutting away from that one scene, induces the audience to take a comfortably objective point of view. Much of the fearful immediacy of the play is sadly lost in the film.



2 thoughts on “On Gaslight

  1. Pingback: On Psycho | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 7 | The Progressive Democrat

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