Saturday, January 05, 2008

Gaslight (Thorold Dickinson, 1940)


Four years after the Brits adapted Patrick Hamilton's play - about a rich Victorian bride whose foreign-accented and therefore sinister husband convinces her she's going through a mental breakdown - MGM re-made it into the bloated, expensive version for which George Cukor earned Ingrid Bergman her first Academy Award. As part of their copyright claim MGM also destroyed what they thought was every print in existence, though evidently they missed one.

Whatever tension the original conjures up has little to do with the flaky bride, who accepts her insanity a little too readily, and much more to do with the monstrous husband, whose manipulation of her is enraging. The photography by Bernard Knowles is often elegant, though there isn't much room for atmosphere in the cramped British National backlot.

The four or so people familiar with this version tend to claim it is the superior one. And it is, probably, if only because it's shorter.

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