MOVIE REVIEW | Gaslight (1944)

Gaslight – Urban Dictionary definition
To manipulate events and situations in order to make a person believe that he or she is crazy.
From the 1944 movie with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.
“He kept stealing her keys and putting them in the freezer in order to gaslight her”.

You know you’ve made a good movie when it ads something to the general population lexicon.  Or, in the case of Gaslight, you’ve made a perfectly serviceable, better than average thriller.

Years ago, the aunt of Paula (Ingrid Bergman) was murdered in the house they both shared.  Traumatised by the event, Paula has never been back to the home, even though it was left to her in her aunt’s will.  Until her new husband, Gregory (Charles Anton), convinces her that they should make it their home.

Almost immediately after moving in, things start to go pair shaped as Gregory begins pitting Paula against their servants, questioning her state of mind and making everyone else, including Paula herself, question it as well.

The way Gregory systematically breaks Paula down, piece by piece, making her constantly second guess her own sanity, makes him one of the most effective bad guys I’ve seen in a long time.  He’s cold, calculating and seems capable of just about anything to get what he wants, no matter who he hurts, or how badly he hurts them, to get it.

Gaslight lets you know Gregory is up to no good almost immediately, but the way it gradually drags out revealing what it actually is, is really impressive.  Intriguing while never tedious.  Meticulously paced out while never boring.  Restrained but never frustrating.  I guess there are so many lazy suspense movies, it’s a bit of a surprise to see one that pulls it off so expertly.

Although, some of the wind is lost from the sails once Gregory’s schemes and true purpose are revealed.  I felt like it was building to something much more interesting and sinister than that standard trope it ended up trotting out.  But it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and they journey is more than creepy and entertaining enough to make up for the hacky destination.

Even if none of that makes you want to watch Gaslight, what about the fact that it also features a 17 year old Angela Lansbury as George and Paula’s saucy young maid who always seems up for a bit?  If that doesn’t lift your skirt, I don’t know what will.

Directed By – George Cukor
Written By – John Van Druten, Walter Reisch, John L Balderston

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