Gaslight (DVD)

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Gaslight (DVD)

Director George Cukor draws magnificent performances from his stars in this powerfully guided study in obsession. GASLIGHT is a suspenseful, atmospher...

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Review of "Gaslight (DVD)"

published 22/04/2017 | 1st2thebar
Member since : 11/05/2005
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Pro Online free viewing - extraordinary directorship
Cons Light on Gaslight moments
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"Going Cukor"

Boyer and Bergman

Boyer and Bergman

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production

A 1944 version from John Van Druten, Walter Reisch & John L Balderston's screen play.

Featuring: Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and a youthful Angela Lansbury
Music score by B. Kaper the Polish master


Paula Alquist a British singer in Italy returns back to reside in her late Aunt's (who was also a singer like her Aunt) London abode where an unsolved tragedy struck, as a newly wed; and there her idyllic life slowly takes a minacious turn.

- - -

I naturally feel at kin with the French journalistic styled terminology called; ' film noir,' - I adhere to spicing up ordinary narratives, especially remakes of a theatre production - 'Gaslight' originally was a screen play. Any attempt to experiment with narrative (s) is a desideratum to the good, regardless of the outcome the consensus is always... progressive... even film failures have a place whereby the diligent director can ponder professional incompetence and frame by frame scarcity - albeit, how do you know what failure looked like if experimentation ceased? You wouldn't know, hence, worth the wager. Interestingly enough, film noir's inception graced Matinees in the rawest form of pessimism, absolutism and angst during the epoch of the early 1940s to the mid 1950s; undoubtedly, you'll see immense influences thereafter, alas, the stark potency of noir derived after the Second World War; unsurprisingly after living through the fear and horrors of psychological warfare.

When George Cukor directed 'Gaslight' he was roughly at the same stage of his career when Fritz Lang directed 'Metropolis' (1927). A fourteen year cinematic difference which are poles apart, technically and intellectually; thus, both films exemplify aspects of grandiose trepidation (s) - toying with the mind, exacting a fear of actuality and the psychological implication. Welles and Wilder too often in my view affiliated with the 'noir' pioneering attribute; however, I deem Cukor's noir contributions as unsurpassed, maybe it was his puerile, candid experimentation that portrays 'film noir' so vividly and with admirable precision. There's no better starting point; 'Gaslight' was the embryo of film noir - it shines through, far brighter than a Curtis Bernhardt production i.e. 'Possessed' (1947).

Right from the enormity of 'Gaslight's' musical cords composed by B. Kaper; cajoled ambiance and expressions the filmography captivates the voyeur, even as a natural critic I found the pioneering aspect outshone any remote view Cukor overplayed the sado-masochism trait. Purely of the de facto the unsightly trait had to come across prominently for 'Gaslight' to work under the genre of 'noir.' The screen play written by: John Van Druten, Walter Reisch & John L Balderston was languor in contrast. Cukor blatantly threw caution into the wind and entrusted the professional marriage of Kaper and Boyer's talents unlike any twenty-first century director would. Call it foolhardiness, naivety or cinematology wisdom - fortunately, 'Gaslight' floated. Better still, his foresightedness has catapulted 'Gaslight' as being credible reading material for film students across the spectrum. Their scholarly aim is to strip back to the core of noir, once they comprehend the noir components you appreciate the honesty of the film noir genre and as epochs pass, herewith dawns a modern adaptation, notably... 'neo-noir' with David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet' (1986). What never dims is the influence of 'Gaslight' - notably an assiduous presence. The key aspect (s) include: brain numbing infatuation, dramatic mood swings and sinister undertones. What is renown in the film noir field is the term, 'calf love;' indeed, to look at the object as if it's a newborn calf; for added impetus - cue cloudy filters for a hazy focus.

"You must think of the future dear not the past." Quite a statement to make to anyone, let alone an innocent cherub having to grow up rapidly, who'd just found their aunt murdered beside their own opulent and commanding portrait in the drawing room. The opening line is a default of the era, a long gone mantra that undermines humanity, grieving merely seems a hindrance. What we experience generically defines us... Paula Alquist is no different, no matter where you go, the sense of grief rarely leaves. Cukor's depiction echoes in the train journey whereby a bloody thirsty Bessie openly explains her joy at reading a blood thirsty story who coincidentally was sitting next to Paula and said; "Don't you just love a good murder?" Paula's propinquity bliss snapped in two, the past rearing up its ugly head again, forever in Paula's shadow; typical of film noir. To see Dame May Whitty in her nebby prime was endearing; she was a prolific professional right to the end, she passed away having just finished filming, 'The Sign of the Ram' in (1948).

There's a real life irony behind Dame May Whitty's script while playing an officious Miss Thwaites... she is mirrored by Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher in, 'Murder She Wrote.' There's an uncanny stylistic resemblance - furthermore, Lansbury herself never felt the need to retire. Indirectly, 'Gaslight' and Dame May Whitty made a lasting impression on Lansbury's during her first movie. Her skill as an actress from the off was resoundingly obvious, for her role as Nancy the resident (House Maid) had a plethora of psychological layers to fathom, plus her cockney accent was forged as if done by a seasonal professional. And I recall her grave, facial expression didn't flicker either, even when Gregory Anton outrageously flirts with her in archaic term: "you're a heart breaker," in the presence of Paula his tormented wife. Ultimately, this triggers a fit of jealousy within Paula which spirals out of control, herewith renders the theatre that evening a non-starter, the dramatic above shot of a spread-eagled Paula on her bed precipitates the gaslight to flicker and dim once more... a face of despair stares up at the dying flame... a few seconds later a black screen - this separates hysteria with a scene of normality. Indeed, this sequence exemplifies classic film noir - Alfred Hitchcock was an expert of sampling these frames, yet the maestro racketed up the horror dial to extreme in 'Psycho,' (1960) - the movie which made Janet Leigh a film legend - those consternation facial stills are etched onto the memory of every film aficionado.

Strauss, he is no mouse

Cukor's detailing is exceptional, every screen shot intrinsically deliberate, the camera close-ups designed to make the voyeur squirrelly. The noir formula highlights Boyer's snappy ire, his curled eyebrow while striking the match to light the gaslight; I cannot imagine the time-management schedule in the manual editing suit, each noir frame under the manipulation microscope. There's a Cukor masterstroke which lifts 'Gaslight' into the noir stratosphere; indeed, who can forget Gregory Anton's ardently played piano piece: Johann Strauss's 'Die Fledermaus' - the waltz of all waltzs, it prompted Paula to dance with a spontaneous flood of jollity, albeit, for a fleeting moment. The extravagant mood swings within seconds portrayed the core essence of theatre, not obvious although for a keen observer there was shady scenic evidence whereby you felt the veranda was the work of a film set handyman, not typical of rococo styled grandeur. I can excuse Cukor for his directorship had a strict budget and professionally he had the utmost respect for the writing of John Van Druten, Walter Reisch & John L Balderston's scene setting and thespianism. Beneath the funereal, vaporous elements there's a sincere honesty in regards to the film's 1940 origin - notably unusual, of the premise, directors tend to get immersed with art direction in a bid to forge their unique interpretation - Or the writers were on site; just as the Tolkien family were close monitors during the filming of 'The Hobbit' series in (2011).

To not concur Gaslight's ritualism practically underlines a detachment from film noir altogether; from a scholarly perspective it's always present. Ye-s, the 1944 version has a Hollywood gloss comparatively to the earlier theatre production, but I still detected a cult attitude. The bible is symbolic; undoubtedly, call it a conditional symptom. I even made a quick note while watching when Paula grasped the bible as if it was her last chance of love and therefore salvation... clasped against her heaving chest, to prove to her husband she is truthful... "swearing on the bible, the hopeless weapon." The fact it didn't do her any credit, again was evidence that superficiality ruled... yeh, Hollywood and the noir audience found more enjoyment in prolonging Paula's agony. The power of the Pimlico Square House cult was far greater than a musty old book that was laying about. Superfluous to the cause. She comprehended divinity was ineffective against the house cult... all partaking in Paula's isolation and 'insanity' - off-beat mannerisms and low-key affection predominantly renown during the Victorian epoch. Another fascinating element of 'Gaslight' is the portrayal of Gregory Anton as a foreigner in London (this clever use of the icon grabs 'noir' by the throat); it also unmasks a rather unfamiliar tone for those not at kin with noir cinematology... i.e. the foreigner's comeuppance; does Anton fall prey to his nefarious thoughts?

The symbolism of the lighting gravitates to Cukor's immense directorship and his extensive research of power, sex and sadism - three words that are fundamental to 'Gaslight.' Without prompt, 'The Romanov' history popped to mind... it had the hallmarks of a sadistic, cult-like regime that had a habit of gathering momentum. A reign of unimaginable family reciprocity, whereby icons whether in spooky eye portraiture or even gaslights somehow become a force of an unknown entity... a trigger to grave occurrences / plotting of ruination. Pimlico Square in 1944 in Cukor's eyes exemplified noir wholeheartedly - and for a hour and fifty four minutes, I believed it.

Available online for free. Highly watchable.©1st2thebar 2017

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Product Information : Gaslight (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Director George Cukor draws magnificent performances from his stars in this powerfully guided study in obsession. GASLIGHT is a suspenseful, atmospheric mystery that perfectly captures the smoky, smoggy feel of Victorian London. Ingrid Bergman won an Academy Award for her role as a wealthy socialite who marries a witty and charming sociopath; Oscar-nominated Charles Boyer is equally spellbinding in his role as her monstrous husband. When famous opera star Alice Alquist is murdered, Gregory Anton (Boyer), who hopes to steal the rare jewels the star has hidden, manages to court and marry the singer's niece, beautiful but naive Paula (Ingrid Bergman). His plan is to slowly drive his young wife insane so he can have free reign of the house that hides the precious jewels; however, a Scotland Yard detective takes a close interest in the couple. GASLIGHT is a classic, compelling film that is masterfully acted and directed.


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