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.
After the death of her famous opera-singing aunt, Paula is sent to study in Italy to become a great opera singer as well. While there, she falls in love with the charming Gregory Anton. The two return to London, and Paula begins to notice strange goings-on: missing pictures, strange footsteps in the night and gaslights that dim without being touched. As she fights to retain her sanity, her new husband's intentions come into question. Written by
Ingrid Bergman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in this film when The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) was being shot. In addition to Bergman, that film featured Academy Award-winning actor Bing Crosby and Academy Award-winning director Leo McCarey. During her acceptance speech, Bergman said "I am particularly glad to get the Oscar this time because I'm working on a picture at the moment with Mr. Crosby and Mr. McCarey. And I'm afraid if I went on the set tomorrow without an award, neither of them would speak to me." See more »
The guide in the Tower of London is incorrectly shown as wearing the uniform of the Chelsea pensioners instead of the Yeoman guard. See more »
Ingrid Bergman plays Paula, an orphaned Victorian-era Londoner whose opera-singer aunt is murdered at the beginning of the movie. She moves to Italy to follow in her aunt's footsteps as a diva, but falls in love and returns to London with her new husband (Boyer) to live in her aunt's empty house. There, she becomes the victim of a carefully-orchestrated campaign to drive her insane.
GASLIGHT is richly atmospheric, mostly well-acted, and beautifully photographed. There are chills aplenty as seemingly innocent people grow progressively creepier, and the movie is well-paced with each successive scene increasing Paula's terror. The climax is tense and has a certain poetic justice to it.
The chief flaw in the movie is that we are clearly shown from the beginning that Paula is the victim of a third party and is not insane. Thus we cannot share the doubts and terror that she feels. We are not, like her, wondering if we can trust our senses, but merely wondering who is doing this to her. And the latter question isn't very challenging to answer. With a little more subtlety, Cukor could have left us as much in the dark as Paula about why she is experiencing so many strange phenomena, and made this effective little film into a true masterwork of suspense. As it is, GASLIGHT is good, but fails to achieve its potential to match such classics as REBECCA or VERTIGO.
Bergman and Boyer make a very dynamic on-screen duo. The film does suffer from Joseph Cotten, whose apple-pie American accent makes for a very unconvincing Scotland Yard inspector. Angela Lansbury is delightfully saucy in her film debut as a Cockney maidservant. Dame May Whitty provides effective comic relief.
GASLIGHT is well worth a rental at any price, so long as your expectations aren't overly high.
Rating: *** (out of ****).
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