Gaslight (1940) Poster

(1940)

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"Creates an air of electric tension that Hollywood could only envy."
jamesraeburn200325 May 2004
In Victorian London, Louis Bower (Walbrook), murdered his aunt for her precious rubies that are hidden somewhere in her house, only he couldn't find them. Having eluded the police for a number of years and changed his name to Paul Mallen, he takes a wife in the fragile Bella (Wynyard), and the couple move back into the house so that he can continue his search under cover as a respectable Victorian husband. At the same time he tries to drive his wife out of her mind because he is afraid that she might discover his guilty secret...

The first film version of Patrick Hamilton's successful stage play is technically modest compared to the 1944 Hollywood remake (see my review), but this British National production directed by Thorold Dickinson creates an atmosphere of genuine electric tension that Hollywood could only envy. Hardly surprising really that they tried to destroy the negative of this picture. Fortunately prints have survived and it often turns up on TCM every few months. Good performances too, especially from Walbrook who portrays the villain as a vile Victorian bully whereas Charles Boyer played it smooth. Wynyard does well as the tortured wife while Cathleen Cordell is fine as the tarty parlour maid whom Walbrook uses to add insult to his wife's injury.

The film was available in the UK on VHS but it has since been deleted, although the Hollywood version is out on DVD. Let's hope this version finds it's way on to DVD too.
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9/10
Stop titivating yourself, come on.
film-critic5 January 2005
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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Streamlined & Suspenseful
Harold_Robbins20 August 2004
Let's face it - the British do psychological suspense VERY well! This 1940 British production is more streamlined and suspenseful than the MGM version of 1944, as it sticks more closely to Patrick Hamilton's play. The MGM version had more 'back-story' and padding to it. I love Diana Wynyard - she was lovely to look at and seemed wonderfully edgy and vulnerable - I wasn't surprised to learn that she played the anguished mother in the West End production of THE BAD SEED - she's really only remembered today for this film and CAVALCADE (1933), but she's definitely worth watching. Anton Walbrook is a little hammier than Boyer was, and there are those obvious streaks in his hair to make him look a little older - but he has a wonderful moment at the films end when, quite suddenly, his eyes go wild and you can tell that he's completely lost his mind - might have been a nice touch if the 1944 had included such a moment. Highly recommended.

I've noticed that people seem surprised that MGM attempted to suppress the 1940 British version of GASLIGHT to avoid any competition with their version. I don't know why anyone should be surprised - Hollywood's business is a cut-throat one: remember that L.B. Mayer, along with Jack Warner and others, offered to buy CITIZEN KANE from RKO and then destroy it, all to appease William R. Hearst - fortunately they didn't (just imagine the history of film since 1941 if they had!) And although MGM didn't destroy all prints of GASLIGHT, they did manage to keep it out of sight for many years - I think I first saw it on a cable station in the early 1980s - I tuned in expecting Boyer and Bergman and got Walbrook and Wynyard - as it turned out I didn't mind at all, and have enjoyed it many times since! MGM did the same thing with Paramount's 1932 DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE which, except for an occasional screening, went unseen (but much written about) until it came out on video around 1990 (under the MGM label - imagine that!)
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10/10
Just as good--if not better--than the 1944 remake
preppy-32 November 2003
It's easy to see why MGM locked this away in their vaults when they issued their 1944 remake--it's really great!

An evil crook (Anton Walbrook) slowly tries to drive his wife (Diana Wynyard) mad for some jewels.

This isn't as lush as the remake, but it more than makes up for it in other departments. For one thing--it's shorter by about 30 minutes and there's no romantic interlude at the beginning. This one starts dark and gets darker. Walbrook is frightening as the husband--much better than Charles Boyer in the remake. The scenes where he yells at his wife had me jumping. Wynyard is great as his fragile wife. She doesn't go into hysterics and chew the scenery like Ingrid Bergman did--she plays it calmly and quietly and very very realistically. Her final confrontation with her husband was just great. Also Cathleen Cordell is lots of fun as Nancy, the parlor maid. In the remake she was played by Angela Landsbury (in her film debut). Surprisingly, Cordell is better than Landsbury!

The remake copied this film virtually scene by scene--and suffers somewhat by comparison. It added on the unnecessary romantic subplot with Joseph Cotton. Thankfully, there's nothing like that here. This just grips you from the very beginning and doesn't let go.

Both movies are great but this one is marginally better. Very recommended.
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8/10
Wonderful film version of "Angel Street"
blanche-230 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A strong story in the right hands can be made more than once with interesting results - and this is certainly true of the 1940 British film "Gaslight," remade as an extremely popular 1944 film by Hollywood. The stars here are Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard, Frank Pettingel, Robert Newton, and Cathleen Cordell.

In this version, the plot centers on a retired detective (Pettingel) recognizing a Mr. Mallen (Walbrook) as a man named Bauer, rather than a hot young detective recognizing the wife as the relative of a late opera singer who was once kind to him. Mallen has moved into a house with his wife Bella (Wynyard) where a vicious murder had occurred 20 years earlier by a robber searching for the resident's famed rubies. After the murder, he trashes the house searching for the jewels. Rough, the old detective, becomes interested in what Bauer is doing in England under another name, and starts watching the house. Inside, Bella is slowly being driven mad by Mallen, as he accuses her of forgetting things, losing things, finally making her too paranoid to leave the house for long or to go out socially. When she does, he makes sure she breaks down so everyone else knows she's crazy. He openly flirts with the maid (and takes it a lot further in this film) and embarrasses his wife in front of her. His motive in this version for wanting Bella declared insane is different from the Hollywood version, but his departure from the house each evening and the dimming of the gaslight is due to the same goal.

If you're familiar with the Boyer/Bergman "Gaslight," this "Gaslight" feels like it starts in the middle, as there is no backstory in this one, though Mallen remains a pianist. In the '44 film, it was the wife's famous aunt who was murdered and seen by the young niece; she meets her husband to be while she's studying voice and marries him, finally moving into the house where her aunt's murder took place. Nothing like that here. This version comes right to the point - Mallen wants to have his wife committed.

The acting is marvelous. Wynward is a good deal more internalized than Bergman and somehow seems less vulnerable. Where Bergman has a soft look, Wynward's is more defined. It's an excellent performance, but one in which the weight of the film is transferred, as it's supposed to be, over to the character here called Mallen, played by Anton Walbrook - the exact opposite of what Hollywood does with the story. Walbrook is openly cruel and sly - no velvet glove here - and very slimy. A real monster. The maid Nancy is here played by Cathleen Cordell, a very pretty actress. Where Lansbury is a cheap tramp from the beginning, it's harder to see that Nancy is a tramp until a little later in the film. She just seems like a flirt at first. Turns out she's a lot more trampy than Lansbury, as the Mallen character does more than flirt with her. I give the slight edge here to Lansbury, though both performances are interesting - Lansbury's cheap look and Cockney accent contribute a great deal to the atmosphere of the later film. Robert Newton has a small role as Bella's cousin, who is brought in by Rough.

Beautiful to look at, both films are wonderful. I don't consider comparing them "a trap" as one poster states. I find the different handling of the story fascinating, and both results very absorbing. See both if you can.
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7/10
Both Good Films !
nicholas.rhodes19 September 2004
I have liked the Gaslight films for many years and was surprised and delighted recently to find both versions together on an American DVD ! Miracles will never cease, I thought!

I have read various comments from people trying to compare these two films. I will not fall into this trap - I liked each film as much as the other..true, Walbrook looks more evil as a villain than Charles BOyer, and the 1940 version is perhaps a little more picturesque with the sets ( carriages, children etc ) but both films were very well done. The picture quality of the 1944 version is obviously better than that of 1940, and I had read somewhere that they had actually tried to get the print of the 1940 version destroyed as to have only the 1944 version available. What a horrible thought that someone could actually have wanted to do that !

So, they are both great suspense films and the black and white only serves to enhance the already seedy atmosphere ! Well worth several viewings !!!
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10/10
GASLIGHT 1940 VS. GASLIGHT 1944 !
whpratt116 January 2004
Viewed this film in 1944 and thought this was the one and only cast with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury. I found out later that Hollywood wanted the copies of 1940 Gaslight destroyed and not shown. Just recently I viewed the 1940 film and thought the entire plot and acting was better performed. Anton Walbrook,(Paul Mallen),"The Rat",'37, gave a more realistic performance as a mad man trying to obtain RUBIES and nearly drove everyone around him crazy. Diana Wynyard,(Bella Mallen),"An Ideal Husband",'47 gave a great performance without the beauty of Ingrid Bergman and the dull Charles Boyer. However, I only wish Angela Lansbury was in this version. The photography was fantastic and gave a great deal of realism to the entire picture.
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10/10
" New Tenants at 12 Pimlico Square "
PamelaShort14 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Although I really enjoy both versions of this suspense filled story, I just like the British 1940 film a little more. The contrast between the characters Bella and Paul are brilliantly executed in this version. I really loved the performance given by the delicate actress Diana Wynyard, she is most convincing as the psychologically abused Bella. Anton Walbrook's performance is the hallmark of the 1940 version. Walbrook gives a totally sinister performance as the evilly menacing husband, attempting to drive Bella insane. Together, Wynyard and Walbrook superbly transform this story into a very intense and dynamic thriller. Frank Pettingell is spot-on as the sly, astute former detective, who is highly suspicious about the new tenants at 12 Pimlico Square. All of the supporting cast are fine in their roles and the story moves along at a perfectly balanced pace, with every moment adequately holding the viewers interest. This streamlined production of Gaslight represents the story very good without any splashy distractions, thus proving that sometimes, " less is best." If you can, try to watch both versions of this story, as both are highly entertaining.
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8/10
Well-filmed earlier adaptation of famed 1944 film
dfranzen7011 November 2006
Gaslight (1940) In 1944, MGM released a movie about a thief who slowly tries to drive his wife insane in order to find out the location of some jewels. The movie was called Gaslight, and it starred Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. But the movie wasn't an MGM original by any means; its antecedent was a much-lesser-known 1940 British film by the same name. (Apparently, when MGM bought the rights to the story, based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, the studio attempted to destroy all existing prints of the earlier version, but they weren't successful.) In the opening scene, an old woman is strangled to death, and her killer ransacks her apartment in search of... well, something. His search is apparently fruitless. Years later, Paul Mallen (Anton Walbrook), a debonair society lord in London, moves with his wife Bella (Diana Wynyard) to the posh Pimlico Square, directly below the apartment of the murdered. Mrs. Mallen is quickly the talk of the neighborhood - she's a little off, they say. Something's not quite right with her. And those wags are right; Bella is constantly accused by her husband of stealing things from him, although she has no recollection of the events.

Mallen uses trick after psychological trick against his wife, although it's unclear to the audience what his motives are. Is he just playing with her? Does he merely delight in her anguish? He even deliberately keeps her from her cousin, a man who'd stood against their marriage at the wedding ceremony. What's Mallen's angle? Unlike its remake, this earlier version is delightfully understated - and bereft of stars whose names would be recognizable in the United States. It's remarkably well lit, too, typical for movies of the period. But where it draws most of its strength is from the two leads. Walbrook, who by that time had been in motion pictures for 25 years, is perfect as the sly, debonair, and viciously evil Mallen; Wynyard exudes vulnerability and panic; her Bella is terrified that she might be quite sincerely insane, vacillating from dignified serenity to sheer panic.

This movie is highly recommended to fans of noir film, particularly those who've seen the more-famous 1944 Hollywood version.
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Better thrills than Bergman
jerseyman19491 May 2002
The later version is Hollywood English, which I sometimes think is a downtown section of Hollywood Transylvanian. Believe me, the original is the real thing, from the small details up to the social assumptions: it's recognisably English. As such, the thriller is grounded in a reality that the later version can never have. And so it's scary! Of course, I admit that this justification of the original might be a lot less convincing if you're reading my words on the other side of the world...

As for the difficulty of getting hold of a copy, well every few years it's shown on one TV station or another over here, so there has to be a good copy somewhere out there.
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Much better version
marbleann3 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I got this movie as a double feature with the 1944 movie. This is by far the better version. I heard years ago that the studio that made the 1944 version wanted all of the prints of this one destroyed. SPOILERS AHEAD! I can see why. First let's deal with the actors. Anton Walbrook is one of my favorite actors, yeah I know who is he... but as a reference see The Red Shoes or Col Blimp. Anyway this guy is plain scary in this movie. The way they photograph him and the way he acts really conveys why a person would be terrorized by him. Charles Boyer who I like was ok but to me he wasn't very convincing. I felt a good slap would of stopped him. Diane Wynard was also better then Ingrid Bergman. Frankly I thought Ms Bergman overacted in this movie..even though she got a Oscar for the film. I also thought the actress in the 1940 version was better suited for the movie. Nancy the maid was potrayed as not as villianous as in the 1944 version. I love Angela Lansbury but you know as soon as you saw her she was up to no good. In this version I wasn't really sure until I saw her ease dropping. Now let's go to the script. Why in the heck did they need a romantic foil in the 1944 version? It broke the movie up. In this version a busy body retired cop recognizes the villain. Not only that, he is real smart and gets right to finding out if he is correct. I find he humorous in his escapades, which was great. And I think the part of the wife is played a little smarter then in the 1944 version. It was a treat to see Robert Newton as the cousin who was trying to help too. If you catch this movie..see it.
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9/10
Claustrophobic and Machiavellian Psychological Thriller
claudio_carvalho10 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In London, at Pimlico Square 12, the ancient lady Alice Barlow (Marie Wright) is brutally killed and her famous rubies miss. Because of the murder, the house stays empty for twenty years, when Paul Mallen (Anton Walbrook) and his sick wife Bella (Diana Wynyard) move to the place. Bella apparently had a nervous breakdown, having problems with her memory and becoming kleptomaniac. When the retired policeman B.G. Rough (Frank Pettingell) sees Paul Mallen on the street, he immediately recognizes him as being Louis Bauer, the nephew and killer of Alice Barlow. He decides to find evidences to prove that Paul and Louis are the same man, while Bella is being driven mad and menaced of being interned in an asylum by her husband.

"Gaslight" is a very claustrophobic and Machiavellian psychological thriller, in a bourgeois pre-industrial revolution London with an abusive exploitation of the proletariat. Anton Walbrook performs one of the most despicable villains I have ever seen and Diana Wynyard plays a very convincing fragile and confused Bella. The theatrical acting is excellent, and the smart B.G. Rough is a sort of "Sherlock Holmes" in the plot. The "can-can" dance is amazing, with the dancers showing a stunning elongation and agility. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "À Meia-Luz" ("Dimly")
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9/10
try to find this version instead of the Hollywood one
MartinHafer12 July 2006
Although Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer got a lot of press for the movie GASLIGHT, the film was actually a remake of a British film made only a few years earlier. It seems that the big-wigs at the studio wanted to remake the film but pretend that it was an original Hollywood production so they bought up the prints and the remade film went on to be considered a "classic". However, recently the ORIGINAL version from 1940 has been discovered and has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

Having seen both versions, I found them awfully similar--but I would have to say that I preferred the original. The wonderful Anton Walbrook was a wonderful and even more menacing husband and I just could see no reason why the movie should have been remade. It's really a shame, too, as I am sure that those associated with the original must have wished they'd gotten all the attention the 1944 version received.

My advice is see them both. However, if you only plan on seeing one, see this one--it's just a better film!
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9/10
Laughter and cruelty; 'less is more' in British original
Igenlode Wordsmith24 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The National Film Theatre's season of Patrick Hamilton adaptations provided the rare opportunity to see *both* versions of 'Gaslight' within a few days of each other in high-quality prints on the big screen. Invidious comparisons are all but impossible to resist...

The Hollywood remake is a glossy melodrama, full of cod-Englishry. Thorold Dickinson's version is the genuine article, from the bell of the muffin-man to the stalwart ex-'peeler' at the livery stables, and the endlessly evocative 'pop' as the gaslights come on. He knows his setting, and it shows. I was astonished to discover that there was no location shooting on this film. The exteriors are utterly convincing, even in bright sunlight, and full of people, horses and vehicles -- no need to resort to fog clichés here!

But more than this, the storyline of the Hollywood version suffers from fatal sprawl. In the way of all big-money remakes throughout time, it not only tries to fill in what was left implicit in the original but adds an anodyne romance. The latter is its biggest loss, for Frank Pettingell, in the role sacrificed to this purpose, makes a relatively minor part into the understated linchpin of the original show. The rough, salt-of-the-earth retired policeman who never forgets a face provides much of the vital laughter -- even if much of it is pretty black humour -- that contrasts to high effect, in this version, with the tension of the story. But he is no token comedy character like the intrusive Bessie Thwaites of the remake; his massive bulk is reassuring, but it can also be menacing, and he is implacable in pursuit of his hunch about the long-gone murderer of Alice Barlow.

There is little to choose between the performance of the leads in both versions, although the script here gives Diana Wynyard an easier task in the part of a woman who is already on the verge of breakdown when we meet her, her thin hands constantly entwining in her lace, and her great eyes devouring frail features. The difference lies in the script; in the effortless snippets of back-story that emerge almost incidentally by implication -- years that pass unspoken in a patina of dust and the shape of a silver birch -- versus the laborious plod through everything on-screen.

We begin with a murder; we cut to the seemingly innocent aftermath. Music cues the mood throughout, from the oppressive moments of fear to the bright sunshine and jaunty lilt that marks the start of a new life, but it is evocative without ever being intrusive. In this case, the 'ghost' whose recognition sets the whole enquiry off is not that of the heroine, implausibly identical (by cinematic tradition) to her murdered aunt, but that of the husband, returned with the aid of his frail bride's money to the house of *his* murdered aunt...

And so it goes on. There is no need to invoke a 'maverick cop goes against the wishes of his superiors to reopen a closed case' scene (another Hollywood convention), since suspicion here originates very simply in the fact that the investigator is old enough to remember the details of the earlier crime. The husband does not take on an unsuitable maid-servant with the specific aim of embarrassing his wife, he is simply carrying on a affair with the saucy coquette already in the household. He has not sought out abroad and courted the one woman in the world who happens to be heir to the house, he has simply married a rich wife for her money. He does not accuse the servants over the disappearance of a painting of no merit, but over the loss of a valuable brooch. At every point where elements of the plot differ, the original turns out to be lacking the later holes in credibility. This film is tighter, darker, funnier, more chilling in its logic.

And the climax (where Hollywood, inevitably, inserts a gun in place of a policeman's truncheon), which has always been a weak point of the 1944 version, suddenly makes sense when you see what has been changed. Gone is the bathetic intrusion of Miss Thwaites, the obligatory romantic aftermath, the explicit view of what is happening in the hidden rooms and the gunshots. Instead, we have the various elements that *do* work -- the reappearance of the detective as 'a figment of the lady's imagination', the justly famous 'mad' scene where the heroine turns the tables -- all together as one whole, shorn of their interpolated padding. Instead of the bizarre scene where she is apparently about to kill her husband, then turns and shouts for help, we have the scene where she is about to kill him... and it is *he* who shouts, breaking his bonds in his wild struggles to escape, the insane obsession of his mind finally snapping as he croons over his rubies.

The Hollywood version has shot itself in the foot by having a genuine attraction between the two in the first place, which then has to be milked for a tear-jerking farewell as he regrets what he has done. In the original, the bitter, brilliant irony of the plot becomes evident in a flash. It is the *husband* -- 'my sane husband' -- who is mad, who has always been mad, in the calculated psychopathy of his treatment of his wife. And it is she who ultimately drives him over that same edge towards which he sought to compel her.

MGM never made a greater mistake with its adaptation than when it sought to sanitise the ending. The remake is not bad as a melodrama, but too often sags; this one is a taut and outstanding thriller.
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10/10
British Style
chuckchuck2113 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This is the original movie of this name. Most people are familiar with the 1944 American Version starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer & the screen debut of Angela Lansbury.

Released in 1940 starring Anton Walbrook & Diane Wynyard this was as classic a tale then as it is now. I prefer it slightly over the American version as the storyline is a darker more abusive affair than America's. By the way Walbrook & Wynyard were big stars then & the acting is best in the British version.

The story begins with a cruel & foul murder of an old woman knitting in her home. Young love causes a new bride to bring the husband she loves so dearly back to the house her murdered aunt had left to her years ago. No one had been willing to rent the place because of the evil crime. It stood empty & decaying for years despite it's location in Covent Gardens a very desirable location in London. The police had always been suspicious of the extensive damage done to the house & furnishings during the night of the murder & thought the old ladies rubies had disappeared with the killer.

In this show it's all about the relationship of wife, husband, maid & the gems. Not to mention the old retired detective who remembered the case from back when & thought he recognized the wife's husband. A 5 star tale & well worth buying if you like your characters dark in a murder story. The disc I got had this 1940 version on 1 side & the 1944 American version on the other. Two worlds- One price. Enjoy!
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8/10
Murder and Terror at Pimlico Place
bkoganbing26 September 2012
From what I've been reading we're fortunate to have this film at all much less showing for rent on Amazon. Not unlike what Paramount did with Frank Capra's Broadway Bill when that studio made Riding High, MGM destroyed this original British made version of Gaslight that came out four years before MGM remade it with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten, that classic that won Ingrid Bergman her first Oscar. Fortunately MGM was not thorough and we can enjoy Diana Wynyard and Anton Walbrook in this original film version of the play Angel Street.

It might have been nice to have a version of that surviving as well. On stage Vincent Price played the suave husband who is trying to get his wife to question her sanity, he co-starred with Judith Evelyn in the Patrick Hamilton play that ran 1295 performances on Broadway from 1941 to 1944. I can see Price easily doing this part.

Of course it would be without the continental suavity of both Charles Boyer and here, Anton Walbrook. Walbrook is one both cold and cool and cruel customer as he tries to drive Wynyard out of her mind. She's at a loss to explain his change toward her. In point of fact she's accidentally discovered a clue to his real identity and he's had history with her family before. She doesn't know what she's discovered which makes her all the more frightened. Wynyard is every bit as good as Bergman in the remake.

The major change that MGM made was in the policeman's role. In fact there is some reason to speculate that Scotland Yard man Joseph Cotten may end up with Bergman in the MGM version. Here the dogged detective is British character actor Frank Pettengill who's strictly business. He recognizes Walbrook, but can't prove anything without positive identification.

Gaslight remains firmly fixed in the Victorian era it is set. Today what involved an elaborate scheme of deception by Pettengill could be remedied easily with fax and telephotos to Australia where Walbrook presumably was staying for many years.

This version of Gaslight is every bit the equal of the finely mounted MGM version and since it is closer to what author Hamilton had in mind, many consider it superior. It's pretty darn good any way you slice it.
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9/10
Pure Evil
Hitchcoc8 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Not a bad version of the more famous successor. My version is called "Gaslight." It is the story of a man who marries a young woman and then movies into a house where he had previously murdered an old woman, the elderly aunt of his bride. He is there to get his hands on some rubies that he has thus far been unable to find. He must, in the process, search in other parts of the house. To accomplish this he must feed into his wife's fears that she is going insane. If she is terribly unbalanced, nothing she says is going to be taken as the truth. There is true evil here, and I have to admit, I wanted the guy to get "his." The acting is good. There is tight suspense and a couple of very memorable scenes, especially the scene of enlightenment. One thing that made it hard was that the husband is really mentally unbalanced and it's obvious. He pushes things past where he can control them. But that's a small criticism.
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8/10
I thought it would suck!
Ninyin27 February 2007
I bought this film in one of those 9 movies in 1 packages you find in bargain bins. I have watched about three of those films. The films were The Bat, Shriek in the Night, and Blake of Scotland Yard. After bearing the stupid/boringness of the later two, I felt this film would be like them, despite the good reviews.

I sure was wrong. This is my favorite film in the entire collection so far. The story is very interesting. In a nutshell, its about some jerk who tries to drive his wife insane by making her think that she is insane. Heck, there is hardly any cheesy parts except for a fight scene near the end. The quality of the film was fantastic.

You must watch this film if you are are a oldies.

PS. I found this film in a 9 movie collection at Wal-Mart bargain bins for $7. Pick it up if you ever see it.
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7/10
A tighter British version of its remake Gaslight (1944); stars Anton Walbrook
jacobs-greenwood8 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
aka The Murder in Thornton Square (1940) or Angel Street

Directed by Thorold Dickinson, with a screenplay by A.R. Rawlinson and Bridget Boland that was based on the play by Patrick Hamilton, this above average British thriller is tighter (half an hour shorter) than the Academy Award nominated American remake which earned Ingrid Bergman her first Oscar, four years later.

Anton Walbrook plays the role of the mysterious Paul Mallen, who's attempting to drive his wife Bella (Diana Wynyard, in the Bergman role) crazy for reasons of his own. Frank Pettingell plays a retired policeman B.G. Rough, who now takes care of horses (in the day when carriages were the primary transportation in the city), that recognizes Mr. Mallen as Louis Bauer, the nephew of Alice Barlow (Marie Wright), who had been murdered in her home many years earlier, a crime that was never solved.

Walbrook is every bit as good as, if not better than, Charles Boyer in the American version, Wynyard is merely adequate, and Pettingell can't be compared to Joseph Cotten because the latter's role was played as a potential love interest for Bella (whereas Pettingell's was not).

Much different than the aforementioned later production, this film's story begins with Barlow's murder; the culprit (whose face is not shown) ransacks the townhouse trying to find (what we come to find out were) her 20,000 pounds worth of rubies. Years later, the home is reopened for the Mallens, who move in after workmen and their servants - parlor maid Nancy (Cathleen Cordell) and cook Elizabeth (Minnie Rayner) - have prepared it. Mr. Mallen proceeds in hiding various objects (a painting, her broach) from around the house and then accusing his wife Bella of doing it. Additionally, each evening when her husband goes out alone, she witnesses the dimming of her bedroom's gas lanterns and hears strange sounds above her room. Mallen tells Bella that she's imagining things and encourages her belief that she's going insane like a distant relative of hers did long ago. He also intercepts her mail, and later keeps Bella's cousin Vincent Ullswater (Robert Newton) from seeing her.

But Rough is not so easily put off, he smells a rat and pursues the case as Mallen openly pursues an extramarital relationship with Nancy. Jimmy Hanley plays the ex-policeman's assistant of sorts named Cobb, who had been dating Nancy himself. Rough figures out what's going on and, while her husband is out with the hired help, informs Mrs. Mallen of what he's learned - that her husband killed his aunt and has returned to the scene of the crime to search for the valuable jewels on the upper floors each night. When Mallen comes home prematurely, a confrontation and a struggle ensues but Rough, with help from Cobb, gains the upper hand and has (now that his real name has been revealed) Louis Bauer tied up.

I skipped a step regarding the rubies because it, and what happens next while Bella is left alone with her 'husband', differs from the more well known remake ... and I'd hate to spoil it for you;-)
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9/10
In the shadow of the later version, but doesn't deserve to be
TheLittleSongbird9 June 2016
It is inevitable that this 1940 film and the 1944 "remake" with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman are going to be compared, and people will have different opinions as to which is the better version.

To me, both 'Gaslight' films are great in their own way, and this reviewer ranks them equally, yet with one or two things in things that are done better in the other. Like the 1944 film (the only real drawback to that film was the uneven performance of Joseph Cotton), there is very little wrong here. The secondary characters could have been better fleshed out, and while Richard Adinsell's music score is suitably ominous Bonislau Kaper's score for the later version has more atmosphere, subtlety and tension.

However, while not as glossy as the later film 'Gaslight' (1940) regardless is incredibly well-made. It's shot beautifully and menacingly, is hauntingly lit and has sets that are picturesque yet give off a great amount of dread while over-stating it. It's intelligently and suspensefully directed by then-famous-and-well-regarded, now-almost-forgotten (undeservedly) Thorald Dickinson.

The script is thought-provoking and tense, everything feels relevant to what's going on and nothing seemed padded. Tighter-paced and more theatrical somewhat, the story never creaks and is leaden with tension and suspense with nothing obvious that came over as unnecessary or clumsy.

Performances are great here and hardly inferior to those in the later film, despite being less familiar. Anton Walbrook, while not as subtle as Charles Boyer, is terrifying and a huge part as to why the film is as atmospheric as it is. Diana Wynward demonstrates Bella's vulnerability incredibly movingly with no histrionics and she's hardly dull either (though the character has more range and depth to her in the 1944 version).

Frank Petingell looks more comfortable than Joseph Cotton, his performance is more even (though Cotton was hardly bad), the character is better written and he is more believable as a police officer (where Cotton's performance particularly fell down on). Robert Newton is a strong presence in an early role, and Cathleen Cordell is a hoot as Nancy.

All in all, despite being in the shadow of the 1944 'Gaslight' in popularity the earlier 1940 film doesn't deserve to be, because it is every bit as great. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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8/10
Beware of dimming lights
AAdaSC3 October 2014
Psycopath Anton Walbrook (Paul) is after something at 12 Pimlico Square. His wife Diana Wynyard (Bella) is a hindrance and he needs her out of the way, so goes through with a plan to convince her that she is mad and belongs in an institution. However, ex-detective Frank Pettingell (Rough) recognizes Anton from his past and is determined to find out what he is up to.

I've read that MGM tried to destroy all copies of this film so that their 1944 remake would be the definitive version. Thank goodness they failed. This film is just as good as the re-make. It has some subtle differences and the cast are excellent – apart from the servant Cathleen Cordell (Nancy) who seems to grin inanely for no purpose on a couple of occasions. Her suitor Jimmy Hanley (Cobb) speaks like a plonker at the beginning but is forgiven, and Frank Pettigell gives the whole story someone to root for as the saviour. He has no romantic interest, he just acts as a kind of Sherlock Holmes who is solving a mystery.

There are good scenes and settings and we have a gripping climax when Wynyard turns the tables on Walbrook at the end. Is she going to get even? And check out the can-can dancers. An entertaining film.
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8/10
Dreadful Murder In Pimlico Square.
hitchcockthelegend12 July 2011
Gaslight is directed by Thorold Dickinson and co-written by A.R. Rawlinson and Bridget Boland, who adapt from Patrick Hamilton's play Gas Light (1938). It stars Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard, Frank Pettingell, Cathleen Cordell and Robert Newton. Music is by Richard Addinsell and photography by Bernard Knowles.

Alice Barlow is murdered in her home by an unknown man, who proceeds to ransack the house looking for some valuable rubies belonging to the deceased. After sitting empty for years, Alice's house finally gets new owners, Paul (Walbrook) and Bella (Wynyard) Mallen. Not long after moving in Bella finds she may be losing her mind as she keeps misplacing things, hiding objects, imagining strange noises upstairs and convincing herself that the gaslights are weirdly dimming. All is not as it seems in this part of Pimlico Square….

Not as famous as MGM's more glossy version released in 1944, this is, however, every bit the equal of the Ingrid Bergman Oscar grabber. Though stories of MGM to burning the negatives of this film have over the years been embellished, it's true that they did all they could to suppress the release of the film in America. Thing is, they needn't have worried, for Dickinson's film is a very British piece anyway, certainly you feel that their own American produced version would still have had the same popularity that it ultimately had.

Dickinson's film is a period melodrama dealing in psychological manipulation whilst casting a roving eye over the British class system in place at the time. There's also a caustic glance at the woman's place in the home, here poor Bella (Wynyard wonderfully correct in portrayal) just wants to be a good wife and be friendly in the neighbourhood, but her life as written is one defined by pure male dominance. This lets in Walbrook, who excels as Paul, ice cold, suave, sinister and effectively calm, you have to ask, what the hell did Bella see in this guy in the first place? Mood is always on the edge of unease, as Bella's mind starts to unravel and with the oppression that comes with the film mostly being set in this one London square, Gaslight starts to gnaw away at the senses. Knowles' monochrome photography dallies in ominous shadows, neatly cloaking the excellent sets in a menacing sheen, and Dickinson (The Arsenal Stadium Mystery) has a gift for tonal pacing and camera work that's not unlike a certain Mr. Hitchcock.

It's not perfect, secondary characters could have done with more flesh on the bones and Addinsell's music doesn't always hit the right atmospheric notes. But small moans aside, this is still a fine exponent of the period thriller drama. 8/10
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10/10
The earlier 1940 film was more realistic, good detailed characters
lora6428 February 2004
I've just had the privilege of viewing on TV the 1940 version of "Gaslight" and must confess to being more drawn in to the tale by the fine acting of this cast. It seemed to have more nuances or shades of colour added to the story that make it much more realistic than what is found in the Ch. Boyer performance.

Since everyone else has commented on the plot and the actors I don't want to repeat it all again here, so suffice to say, I found this earlier version far more interesting and believable, truer to the characters and events as the story unfolds.

Particularly good and convincing was the performance of Diana Wynyard as the delicate, emotionally unstable wife - talk about mental cruelty in marriage, this would be a first rate example!

Anton Walbrook is always intriguing to me and I recall him best in "The Red Shoes" as the self-centred ballet director who habitually manipulated those around him, dancers and musicians.

How nice to have made this discovery, although rather late in life for me.
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6/10
Another opinion
loews17515 May 2005
I watched this film with great anticipation after hearing for years the stories of how MGM suppressed it after filming the remake.

In my opinion, they needn't have bothered. The 1940 version is a fine film: taut, suspenseful and well-edited. However compared to George Cukor's film to me it seems two-dimensional. Walbrook portrays a blatant villain and Wynyard is a passive victim. The suspense comes only from the plot.

I found the relationships in the 1944 film much more complex and interesting. Boyer is a villain, but is also an attractive lover, which makes his manipulations of Paula all the more terrible. The erotic and romantic chemistry between Boyer and Bergman make the film fascinating and much more than a simple cat and mouse suspenser.
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8/10
The remake and the original...
garethcrook25 July 2020
They don't make them like they used to is a lazy thing to say, but they really don't. There's a wonderful tangible and hypnotic innocence to early cinema that we've lost... or progressed from depending how you look at it, but it's great to be able to relive films like this. Paula (Ingrid Bergman) hasn't had a happy start in life, her aunt murdered in her foggy london home. Escaping to Italy she meets and falls for Gregory (Charles Boyer). It's an affluent life, palatial hotels on Lake Como. Were lives of the poor depicted often in 40s cinema? I don't think so, I guess it was a medium purely of escape. Anyway, Gregory fancies settling in London and Paula still owns her aunts house at 9 Thornton Square an address that haunts her, but she puts that aside for Gregory's wishes. I must admit I'm captivated by old London. Cobble streets, horse drawn carriages and of course gaslights. The house is stunning and thanks to the eerie score, quite spooky. Unchanged since that fateful night of the unsolved murder... and full of clues. I don't trust dear Gregory and I'm not sure about Nancy (Angela Lansbury) the new maid either. The sneaky sod is playing mind games, undermining poor Paula, trying to convince her she's losing it. He's a gold digger. Not like Brian (Joseph Cotten) and Miss Thwaites (May Whitty), both who bring much needed warmth. Brian works at Scotland Yard and smells a rat... and a jewel thief, every murder needs a motive. The elderly Miss Thwaites, well she loves a good story and is fascinated by the things that happened at number 9. And might well she be, there's a lot going on in it's walls. Largely down to poor Paula rarely leaving them, slowly being pushed into the role of reclusive madness, by an increasingly manipulative Gregory. It's partly frustrating knowing that Paula is being bullied and unsettling to modern eyes. Yet it's captivating as we expect repercussion, relief, truth and justice. The gaslit house with its shadows and aunties old memorabilia locked up in its top floor, brings an odd supernatural sense to proceedings, but we know what's really going on and Brian is onto something too. Bergman is fantastic in her increasing frailty. Boyer in his domineering menace. Lansbury in with her east end flirting and Cotten as the hero detective. It's a lovely slow burner with fantastic finale.

This isn't the original though, oh no. There's a version that predates in by 4 years. The story is much the same, albeit with different names and locations. We're still rooted around the story of a murder, but this one is at 12 Pimlico Square and we witness it in the opening scenes, with a strangling and considering the era, some pretty dramatic ransacking. London is still charming. Penny farthing bicycles roam freely and steps are swept with straw broomsticks. After some time, number 12 gets new occupants. Paul Mallen (Anton Walbrook) and his wife Bella (Diana Wynard). The oddly named 'Rough' (Frank Pettingell) clocks something's off right away, he knows Mr Mallen, by another name, one that connects him to the murdered aunt. The leading man is still a manipulating villain m, undermining the mental faculties of his unsuspecting wife whilst flirting with Nancy the maid, Cathleen Cordell setting the template perfectly. Much of the remake is a carbon copy. This cuts to the chase much quicker though. There are minor differences, but both versions work well. It's the tension between the two central characters that's important, that and the meddling hero. Boyer is more sauve and staged in his delivery, but Wallbrook seems more villainous. The shock of grey in coiffured hair, the stroked moustache, the cold stare and cloak. I'm gonna say I prefer the remake, I feel a bit dirty saying that, but it feels more fleshed out, without becoming tiresome. Credit has to go to the original though for... originality. The 1944 version takes so much, it's almost impossible to separate them. That said some of my favourite lines are in the original, not least Rough's perfectly timed comment to Bella "You're supposed to be going off yer head aren't you." and when taking of his coat "Saucy shirt isn't it". Rough is the star for me and provides a thrilling end to a fantastic mystery thriller.
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