Gaslight (1940 film)
|Directed by||Thorold Dickinson|
|Produced by||John Corfield|
|Based on||Gas Light (1938 play)|
by Patrick Hamilton
|Music by||Richard Addinsell|
|Edited by||Sidney Cole|
|Distributed by||Anglo-American Film Corp. (United Kingdom)|
Gaslight (released in the United States as Angel Street) is a 1940 British psychological thriller film directed by Thorold Dickinson which stars Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, and features Frank Pettingell. The film adheres more closely to the original play upon which it is based – Patrick Hamilton's Gas Light (1938) – than the 1944 MGM remake. The play had been performed on Broadway as Angel Street, so when the MGM remake was released in the United States, it was given the same title as the American production.
In Pimlico, London, Alice Barlow (Marie Wright) is murdered by an unknown man, who then ransacks her house, ripping her furniture apart as if desperately searching for something. The house remains empty for many years, until newlyweds Paul and Bella Mallen move in. Bella (Diana Wynyard) soon finds herself misplacing small objects; and, before long, Paul (Anton Walbrook) has her believing she is losing her sanity. B. G. Rough (Frank Pettingell), a former detective involved in the original murder investigation, begins to suspect him of Alice Barlow's murder.
Paul lights the gas lamps to search the closed-off upper floors, which causes the rest of the lamps in the house to dim slightly. When Bella comments on the lights' dimming, he tells her that she is imagining things. Bella is persuaded that she is hearing noises, unaware that Paul enters the upper floors from the house next door. The sinister interpretation of the change in light levels is part of a larger pattern of deception to which Bella is subjected. Rough visits Bella and reveals that Paul is a bigamist; he is the wanted Louis Bauer, who has returned to the house to search for the rubies he was unable to find after the murder.
- Anton Walbrook as Paul Mallen/Louis Bauer
- Diana Wynyard as Bella Mallen
- Frank Pettingell as B. G. Rough
- Cathleen Cordell as Nancy, the parlour maid
- Robert Newton as Vincent Ullswater
- Jimmy Hanley as Cobb
- Minnie Rayner as Elizabeth, the cook
- Marie Wright as Alice Barlow
- Aubrey Dexter as House Agent
- Mary Hinton as Lady Winterbourne
- Angus Morrison as Pianist
- Jack Barty as Chairman of Music Hall
- The Darmora Ballet
- Katie Johnson as Alice Barlow's maid (uncredited)
Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 1/2 stars (out of 4): "Electrifying atmosphere, delicious performances, and a succinctly conveyed sense of madness, and evil lurking beneath the surface of the ordinary".
The Time Out critic wrote, "Nothing like as lavish as the later MGM version ... But in its own small-scale way a superior film by far. Lurking menace hangs in the air like a fog, the atmosphere is electric, and Wynyard suffers exquisitely as she struggles to keep dementia at bay."
Encouraged by the success of the play and film, MGM bought the remake rights, but with a clause insisting that all existing prints of Dickinson's version be destroyed, even to the point of trying to destroy the negative, so that it would not compete with their more highly publicised 1944 remake starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and Joseph Cotten. "Fortunately they failed, and now the British film has been restored by the BFI and issued in the UK on Blu-ray in a pristine print.". Since 2017 the film is viewable on the YouTube platform 
Gaslight as expression
The psychological term gaslighting, which describes a form of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality, originated from the play and its two film adaptations. Gaslighting means manipulating others so as to make them doubt and question their own memory and judgment.
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