Gaslight (June 6, 1940)
Released June 6, 1940: In a wealthy part of London Paul Mallen tries to drive his wealthy wife mad while he is on an unknown mission and the light from the gas lamps will provide the solution.
Directed by Thorold Dickinson
Written by Patrick Hamilton, A.R. Rawlinson and Bridget Boland.
The Actors: 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), Marie Wright (Alice Barlow), Aubrey Dexter (house agent), Mary Hinton (Lady Winterbourne), Angus Morrison (pianist), Jack Barty (chairman of the music hall), The Darmora Ballet (dancers), Katie Johnson (Alice Barlow's maid), Johnnie Schofield (John, the man working on carriage at the stables).
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This is not an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, but it could be. Possibly one of the first psychological thrillers in motion pictures, and even today one of the best. This old movie will raise the hair on the back of your neck, and keep you so involved that you may forget to munch on your hot buttered popcorn as you try in vain to figure out what is really happening, and who the villian really is.
As the movie opens, we watch a wealthy old lady at 12 Pimlico Square being strangled to death, and her home ransacked in search of her fortune in jewels. As a result, the house sits empty for twenty years, until a newleywed couple moves in, using all but the top two floors. It seems that the wife is a bit daffy - she seems to do strange things, and her Bible-reading husband tries to protect her from the outside world. She seems to be slowly going insane. At first she is convinced that she is fine, and that she is not really doing the things that happen around her, but slowly she starts to believe that she is really going insane. The one thing that puzzles her, and leads her to the truth, is the gas light in her bedroom. In this age before electricity, gas lights had replaced oil lamps and candles, and they feature prominently in this mystery thriller.
Before it is over, we will learn the identity of the original killer twenty years earlier, and discover the villian, a person of true evil, and we will learn whether the villian will persevere, or will have a fate worse than death as his due. Who is the real villain? Is Bella really going insane? Is her husband a manipulating devil or is he protecting Bella from the real villain? What about that cubby former copper that is snooping around? Is he involved in the earlier murder and the current oddities in this cursed house? What does an old envelope with a strange name on it have to do with this mystery?
This British thriller was re-done four years later with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton, but like many re-do's, the plot was changed in several important areas, and in my humble opinion, this original version has a superior story line and will keep you very involved and nervous right to the ending. But be forewarned: The final four minutes may make you crazy!