Gaslight (1940) Original Murder Mystery & Psychological Thriller Mayhem

Gaslight (1940) Aton Walbrook Diana Wynyard movie poster thriller

Something dreadful is afoot at number 12 Pimlico Square. This is my review for Gaslight (1940)

What’s going down?

There’s been a brutal murder and a terrifying robbery. Fast forward 10 years and the once vacant and decaying terrace house has new owners. A happily married couple? Well they would be if the lady of the house wasn’t such a, living in denial, kleptomaniac. Maybe she’ll need to go to an asylum?

Where’s it set?

Gaslight is set in Victorian London, England. Mostly on location within the rooms of the grand terrace house. With a few excursions out and about around town. A little wander in the smog filled park and a joyful visit to a posh music hall.

Gaslight (1940) Aton Walbrook Diana Wynyard together

The main players

Anton Walbrook – Paul Mallen
Diana Wynyard – Bella Mallen
Frank Pettingell – B.G. Rough
Cathleen Cordell – Nancy the parlour-maid
Robert Newton – Vincent Ullswater
Minnie Rayner – Elizabeth the cook
Jimmy Hanley – Cobb

Sure I’ve seen them in something?

Anton Walbrook is pretty new to me so please recommend his films. The only other one I’ve seen of his is the 49th Parallel (1941). I know I need to see Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s two films with him in called The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and The Red Shoes (1948). The only other two cast members I recognized was Robert Newton who is famous for his portrayals of Long John Silver and Blackbeard. Though I’d highly recommend you check him out in the superbly dark Obsession (1949) which I featured on my blog. The other guy I knew was Jimmy Hanley who I’d first seen in the rookie cop, bobby on the beat drama, The Blue Lamp (1950) and just recently in the World War Two film with David Niven called The Way Ahead (1944)

Gaslight (1940) Aton Walbrook Diana Wynyard sinister thriller mind games

Notes on production?

Gaslight is directed by Thorold Dickinson. Based on a 1938 play by British playwright Patrick Hamilton who’d earlier penned the 1929 play Rope. Which would famously become the Alfred Hitchcock classic starring James Stewart. Gaslight would become famous in a few other ways. Strangely with the word coming back into fashion. “Gas-light to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

Gaslight (1940) would go on to have a more well known bigger budget American version in 1944. With Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman taking on the married couple. Now I never knew any of this. I do so love learning doing this blog. Well, apparently, MGM not only bought the rights to the film but they had added a clause insisting that all existing prints of the original 1940 version be destroyed. Even wanting the negative to be erased. Lord have mercy that someone didn’t read or even listen to that insane proposal.

Another great bit of info I’ve just read. The stage play opened on Broadway New York under the different name of Angel Street. With the one and only Vincent Price gaining the rights to the play and taking the main role. Judith Evelyn would play his wife.

Hits like a sledge hammer

Opening hard and savage. Then dialing it straight back for a few minutes!. By jove old bean this is one intense psychological thriller. All helped along with a sinister performance by Anton Walbrook. What with his Austrian accent, mannerisms and a mad swish streak of white hair through his mane that gives him an almost Dracula quirk. Just the concept of this film is dark but seeing the manipulation and pain Diana Wynyard is put through is something else for a film from this time. Plus you get some underlying naughty sordidness in the dialogue to keep you on your toes.

Gaslight (1940) Aton Walbrook Diana Wynyard door way

Cutting remarks

“You will die, raving, in an asylum!”
“It’s a dirty evening for a stroll sir?” “There’s a lot of dirty things in London”
“Hit me, hurt me, do anything but for Pete’s sake, speak to me.”
“Knife? What knife? Do you see a knife in my hand?”
“When I married you, you were normal, at least I thought you were.”

Gaslight (1940) Aton Walbrook Diana Wynyard thriller sat in chair

Verdict

Oh my days! I wasn’t expecting this one to be so incredibly dark and at the same time an extraordinary rewarding viewing experience. Gaslight plays so well on it’s intense psychological thrills. It’s almost horror in nature. So yeah Anton Walbrook might ham it up a bit but he’s just perfect for the part. You feel yourself holding back boos and hisses whenever he’s on screen. Everything about the film is a fantastic achievement and I haven’t even mentioned Frank Pettingell. He’s an extremely likable, inquisitive, old police detective who sniffs something fishy is going on. He reminded me slightly of Charles Laughton.

I’m very intrigued to see the 1944 version. Though I felt this 1940 version, along with it’s history, made a perfect viewing experience of me. I will endeavor to see it for comparison. I wonder if I’d have seen them around the other way it would of been different?

With a fast paced no nonsense run-time of 84 minutes. This exciting film can be found on YOUTUBE.

Rating score

Wolfman’s rating 10/10       IMDB 7.3/10

Feel free to let me know you thoughts on this one if you wish.. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf

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14 thoughts on “Gaslight (1940) Original Murder Mystery & Psychological Thriller Mayhem

  1. And here I am sitting with this version on the shelf and have never bothered to watch it! Pretty convincing argument. Of course I’ve seen the Hollywood version and find it to be an excellent thriller so this will probably play like a parallel universe but maybe ….. darker? I’d best get on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great film. Glad you enjoyed it. The 1944 version is the more popular and famous, but I consider this original version to be the better of the two. It’s so atmospheric and bleak. If you want to see more from Anton check out The Red Shoes, The Queen Of Spades, The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really loved it Maddy. Been thinking about it a lot. I’m so intrigued now to what the 44 version but at the same time I don’t know whether I want too. This was so perfect. I’ve added The Queen of Spades to the other two Anton’s. Thank you.

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  3. Funny, I was listening to a new album on Friday (Miami Memory by Alex Cameron) that features a song “Gaslight”. When I googled the term this movie appeared 🙂 Was wondering which version is the best, this one sounds great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh well you have come to the right place Chris 🙂
      The movie is in the link on the post above on YT and I highly recommend it. As you can see I really loved it and reading all the history going with it was just the icing on the cake.
      It also great to see music and film connections coming together. Will go for a listen.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Here I was, all set to say, ‘hey, I really liked this one, especially Ingrid…’ but then, wait a minute! This is NOT the version I’ve seen! Sounds excellent, though, and I followed that link so I could snag me…I mean, to bookmark me…a copy, and I’ll definitely give it a watch (a great HD copy, I might add). I have a friend who’s been interesting in seeing the Boyer-Bergman version, so maybe I’ll show her this one first.

    And can you imagine if this version HAD been destroyed…good lord! The same kind of thing was attempted with ‘Citizen Kane’, and I’m sure with other films I’m not aware of. Like you said, thankfully somebody stepped in and told MGM to shove it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a great copy of it. BFI thankfully restored it. Which is brilliant to see as the film had fallen into public domain.
      I’d be interested to hear what you think of it as you have seen the 44 version. I’ve been thinking if it could be a case of which ever one you see first being the one you like more? I’m very much looking forward to seeing a young Angela Lansbury playing a naughty maid.
      Wow I didn’t know that about Citizen Kane! (whispers) I’m still to see CK! The shame! Ten hail Mary’s.

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  5. I much prefer the remake (Charles Boyer IS so sinister, and Angela Lansbury is deliciously mouthy!), but the original is pretty awesome too. BTW, you have to see Anton Walbrook in Red Shoes… he is simply unforgettable! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m gonna have to watch it soon. I’ll let the dust settle on the 40s one and then get on the 44. I’m really excited to see Angela Lansbury. She always brings a smile to my face.
      I wonder if you saw the original first or after Ingrid’s? ….. Red Shoes is getting a bump up the list. Cheers EB

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel bad–I know I saw this a while back, but I’m not 100% which version it was!
    It must have been the 1944 version. Looking at the stills, the faces look more familiar.
    But I DO remember how entertaining it was and mysterious and fun.
    I love that line you quoted:“When I married you, you were normal, at least I thought you were.”
    Sounds like a line from my own life, lol !! (I won’t tell you which side said it, ha ha)
    It’s so interesting finding the things we never knew, as you said about the other version.
    Like I had no idea there were TWO other versions of the Maltese Falcon, one of which was called Satan Met a Lady.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WHAAAAAT Hold the press! Drag the needle across the record. Slam on the brakes! What! There was version of The Maltese Falcon before Bogie! Well I never. And with Bette Davis. Well I never again. It’s a spoof version before the 1941 version! Whats going on? Maybe we really are in the multi-universe! What a great title name “Satan Met A Lady”. Added to my to watch one day list. Thanks for the knowledge. Love learning stuff.

      Haha I can probably quote that same line too TBH! Ditto. We best keep that which side a secret!
      I really got invested in Gaslight. I’d never seen either or even heard of it. I can imagine it’s a case of liking which ever one you see first the most. I’m very much looking forward to checking the 44 Ingrid version soon for comparison. Two for the price of one.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I know, I know! Exactly what we said! Maltese F. BEFORE Bogie?!
    Geez, next thing you know they’ll tell us there was a RoboCop before 2014 or a Total Recall before Colin Farrell! (neither of which needed to remade, in my opinion, lol !!)

    Liked by 1 person

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