Rushed off her feet with a whirlwind romance and a quick wedding, Paula
Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) is surprised when her new husband Gregory Anton
(Charles Boyer) wants to live in the house which belonged to her aunt, an
operatic star murdered ten years earlier. They arrive and begin looking
through her stored memorabilia and personal effects, but the discovery of a
letter received just before her death sends Gregory into a fit of rage, which
he covers quickly. As time passes, their marriage and Paula’s mental state
deteriorate, and the couple live in a kind of suspended animation inside the
house, talking only to the cook (Barbara Everest) and the maid (Angela
Lansbury’s first film role, four decades before the irritating Murder She
Of course, everything is not quite what it seems, and during the evenings
when Gregory leaves to go to his “work”, Paula sees the gas lighting flicker
and hears noises from the boarded-up top floor of the house. Gregory’s mind
games convince her that she is going insane, but when a Scotland Yard
detective (Joseph Cotton) notices the couple on an outing, he becomes
interested in the decade-old mystery of the singer’s murder. The film’s
dramatic climax weaves these threads into a powerful conclusion as we find out
the characters’ true natures.
As a film,
Gaslight is quite dated (it’s sixty years old, in fact) and the black and
white, full-frame, mono presentation is in keeping with its age. The acting is
occasionally over the top as well, and may put a 2004 audience off the
genuinely tense storyline and the quality of the performances (Bergman won her
first Oscar for the role). Given its age, the print of the film is excellent,
with great detail and minimal dirt or grain.
of the audio is likewise excellent.
The extras are perfunctory – the trailer, a short piece about the making
of the film hosted by Bergman’s (other) daughter Pia Lindstrom, including
Lansbury’s interesting comments, and a newsreel of the Academy Awards winners
from 1945, which is pretty goofy. Gaslight isn’t for everyone, and
won’t find a place as a home theatre demo disc, but when you meet it on its
own terms it’s an entertaining and tight piece of film-making.