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Years after her aunt was murdered in her home, a young woman moves back into the house with her new husband. However, he has a secret that he will do anything to protect, even if it means driving his wife insane.
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Twenty years ago, old Mrs. Barlow was killed in her home at 12, Pimlico Square for her priceless rubies. The murderer searched the whole house without finding them, then disappeared. The house has been empty since then, but now Paul and Bella Mallen move into the apartment. Bella Mallen suffers from forgetfulness and nervousness - at least that is what her husband tells her. An elderly horse wrangler, B.G. Rough worked as a policeman twenty years ago and still remembers the unsolved case. He notices that Mr. Mallen looks just like Louis Barre, Mrs. Barlow's nephew. And why does Mr. Mallen mysteriously leave every night just to go into the apartment next door, no. 14? Written by
When later remade as Gaslight (1944) with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, the studio (MGM) attempted to have all prints of this earlier version destroyed. Fortunately, it was unsuccessful (in fact it is thought that director Thorold Dickinson surreptitiously struck off a print himself before the negatives were binned). See more »
Camera pans across the tossed room with woman's dead body. When the police come up, the position of the woman's hand has changed. See more »
What a crisp, deeply rooted thriller Thorold Dickinson created. With vile creatures (Paul) and goofy policemen and maids, we are easily captured into the world of the Mallens. Diana Wynyard does a spectacular job as Bella, giving us the right amount of insecurity coupled with fear. She is the true victim of this film and Dickinson does not let us forget that. Wynyard is nearly overshadowed by my favorite character of the film, Paul Mallen, played with so much evil by Anton Walbrook. I have seen several films in my life, and I must say that Walbrook ranks among some of the most sinister villains of them all. He has no super powers, just the ability to manipulate Bella mentally, proving that he is stronger than her. He thrives on Bella's insecurities and makes them into his greatest form of punishment. These two working together really transformed this 40s thriller into something concrete and powerful. It is the dynamic between the two that kept me glued to my seat and continually asking for more.
Coupled with the superb acting is the creativeness of Dickinson and his writer A.R. Rowlinson. Together they set the mood with darkened corners and alleyways with that constantly looming feeling that the events are going to get grittier down the road. This team made Victorian London a spooky place to visit at night. They make Bella the victim throughout this entire film, making even me wonder if she really was slowly going mad. It isn't until the end that the truth is revealed and even then we are left in suspense. It isn't until the credits roll is the film over, and that is hard to accomplish for directors of the thriller genre today. Dickinson proved that he could handle all the elements with the greatest of ease and bring them to the screen in a film that would last the test of time. I am not embarrassed to show this film to friends because I do believe that they would see the value in this production.
Grade: ***** out of *****
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