Review: Gaslight (1944)

gaslight

I prefer to deal with highly fluorescent light, although that could explain much of my weirdness!

Screenplay By: John L. Balderston, Walter Reisch & John Van Druten
Directed By: George Cukor

There is something to be said for Hollywood ideals, and that something isn’t always a good thing. Gaslight is a terrific movie that gets knocked down quite a few pegs by all the Hollywoodization that occurs during its running time. Gaslight remains a good movie, but very quickly you realize it could have been so much more if not for the need to cater to the Hollywood version of what a movie like Gaslight should be.

The problems start with the costumes provided for Ingrid Bergman, because if the desire was to make Miss Bergman look as puffy faced as possible, they certainly succeeded. Then the problems continue with the story, or lack of a plausible one as it were. I can buy a man trying to drive his wife insane, but I have a hard time believing a man rummaging around in the same small room day after day and never finding what he is looking for. Never mind the fact that this premise is ruined early on in Gaslight when Miss Thwaites reveals that she has been in the infamous house 09. If she can gain access, then there’s no reason that Mr. Anton has to go through the ridiculous machinations he does in order to gain access. The problems continue in the form of Miss Bergman’s acting, or as I like to call it, being as overly dramatic as possible. She does what some people would call “ACTING” to the extreme, making sure I know she is in a motion picture and she is doing her best to put her acting wares on display. Finally, there is the love story between Miss Bergman and Joseph Cotton, if one can call that a love story. The movie sure wants us to view it as a love story, but if that’s love I really have been wasting my time in these complicated relationships all these years.

There is plenty of good in Gaslight, to even out the bad. The atmosphere and ambiance provided by the lighting and the camera work is tremendous. Gaslight looks and feels like a creepy noir, it also sounds like one as well due to the accompanying music that fits the picture like a glove. Charles Boyer is quite sinister as Mr. Anton, pulling off the turn from lovelorn man to obsessive psycho with excellence. Angela Lansbury is absolutely devilish as Nancy, the housekeeper with more on her mind than keeping the house. Also, while I may have ragged on the costuming earlier, the set designs do look tremendous, but man, those dresses on Miss Bergman do her no favors.

Gaslight is a good movie that could have been great, it is an uneven movie. Most of all Gaslight is a victim of the noir tendency to go for style over substance. Gaslight looks pretty, dresses aside, but once you get past the outer wrapping there’s not much to look at. Gaslight is just like some vapid cheerleader I dated for a few weeks back in High School, fun, till you realize just what is going on.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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