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Experiment Perilous (1944)

Approved  |   |  Romance, Thriller  |  18 December 1944 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 777 users  
Reviews: 27 user | 17 critic

In 1903, a doctor suspects murder in the gothic Bederaux family.



(screenplay), (novel)
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Title: Experiment Perilous (1944)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Allida Bederaux
George Brent ...
Dr. Huntington Bailey
Nick Bederaux
Carl Esmond ...
Olive Blakeney ...
Cissie Bederaux
George N. Neise ...
Margaret Wycherly ...
Stephanie Bachelor ...
Mary Servoss ...
Miss Wilson
Julia Dean ...
William Post Jr. ...
District Attorney


In 1903, Dr. Bailey meets a very strange woman on a train, then hears that she has died under mysterious circumstances. Through a friend, he becomes acquainted with the Bederaux family, all of whom seem to be neurotic and secretive; but the beauty of Alida Bederaux draws him into their circle...deeper than he'd planned. Who's in danger from whom? Who's crazy? Who can fathom the obscure motivations? Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Romance | Thriller


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Release Date:

18 December 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Noche en el alma  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The title is a common variation of a line from Hippocrates, the Greek Father of Medicine: "Life is short, art is long, decision difficult, and experiment perilous." The line is recited by Nick Bederaux in the film. See more »


Towards the end of the film, when Dr. Bailey attacks Nick and the two briefly fight, it's very obvious that the people seen fighting are stunt doubles. Nick's stunt double doesn't even have the same hair color. See more »

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User Reviews

Tourneur's early psychological noir transcends period setting
14 April 2002 | by (Western New York) – See all my reviews

On a train bound for New York in 1903, George Brent befriends an old spinster returning home after years in a sanitarium. She tells him the story of her well-known family. Upon arrival, Brent finds one of his bags missing and one of hers in its place, containing her detailed diary. Soon after, he learns the woman has died suddenly and finds himself drawn into her family's unhappy saga.

Her brother, Paul Lukas, married a girl (Hedy Lamarr) years his junior; he engages Brent, a physician, to document her loosening grip on reality. But upon investigation, Brent learns that the mental instability nestles elsewhere in the family – and he falls in love with Lamarr himself, despite the fact that he feels himself slipping into a treacherous plot.

Released in 1944, the same year as George Cukor's Gaslight, Experiment Perilous too sets a psychological melodrama in a period setting. And it too benefits from elegant direction: Jacques Tourneur's.

Of the handful of directors whose artistry helped produce the noir cycle's most canonical movies, Tourneur remains the most elusive. He seemed to favor no theme or particular style from work to work, rethinking each one from scratch and then crafting it with insight and taste. The Cat People, Out of the Past, Berlin Express, Nightfall – these titles have little in common but quality (and perhaps a fondness for the flashback as a narrative tool).

The flashbacks in Experiment Perilous add to the movie's sense of unease and peril (perhaps excessively: the narrative grows murky and the characters don't sort themselves out too clearly). But what Tourneur sacrifices in clarity he makes up for in tension and mood; period dramas tend to have their longueurs but he keeps the story curiously compelling.

He's abetted in his aims by Roy Webb, who supplies a rich and responsive score. (Webb composed the music for many films in the noir cycle – including several with Tourneur – and remains one of its unsung heroes.) Experiment Perilous, a neglected film, is important Tourneur and important early noir, arriving at a time when the cycle was starting to codify its allusive tone and fragmented narrative patterns. And, except for the fact that Brent and Lamarr are not Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, it's as good as Gaslight – in some ways even better, as the root of the psychological malaise turns out to be somewhat darker than old jewels sewn to a gown.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Wonder what happened to the portrait of Allida Bedereaux? dlevy1201
Accents? LilyLiveredFarmer
Plot Hole: Deria mistaking Dr. Bailey for Alec Gregory??? dlevy1201
DVD of Experiment Perilous out now in UK mr-dan-hunter
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