Gaslight (1940)

Gaslight (1940)
Article 5541 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-13-2018
Directed by Thorold Dickinson
Featuring Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard, Frank Pettingell
Country: UK
What it is: Crime thriller

A husband is using manipulative tactics to drive his wife crazy. Why is he doing this? And can he be stopped before he succeeds?

I’ve mentioned GASLIGHT before in this series, usually in the sense that I’m not fond of those movies which borrow its central premise; think THE SCREAMING SKULL or TERROR IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE as examples. What I never liked about the premise is that they mostly consist of a woman of delicate mental balance being tormented, which I find more unpleasant than fun. Having now seen one of the originals, I’m glad to say it works much better than its imitators. What makes the difference is that the script is much more solid and nuanced than those of its imitators, and the acting is also superior; instead of finding it merely unpleasant, I get drawn in by the character touches and the mystery elements. It also helps that the movie establishes the character of the detective early in the story, thus not leaving us with the sense that the woman’s plight is hopeless. In fact, I found the movie effective and worthy, though I do think I’d like to read the original stage version because I suspect that the ending may have been changed. So why did it take me so long to get around to this one when I’ve covered several of its imitators? It’s because the original movie is only very marginally genre; outside of the presence of the theme of madness, it does not unfold or play like a horror movie in any way.


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