Many years ago, a murder was committed in a fashionable home on a fashionable square inLondon. The murderer was looking for priceless jewels. Years later, a young woman and herdashing new husband move into the house. Bit by bit, the woman appears to be losing her mind.She forgets where she puts things, and moves paintings around without remembering she hasdone so. Or so it appears. In fact, she is being driven out of her mind by her husband. Could hebe the murderer? And wha… is he doing in the attic?
I have kept the names vague in the above synopsis deliberately. This summary appliesequally to both versions of the film. The 1944 version is the most high-profile version, and hasthe Big Name Cast: Ingrid Bergman as the wife (a role for which she won her first Oscar),Charles Boyer as the husband, Joseph Cotten as the suspicious investigator, and a debuting, 18-year-old Angela Lansbury as the saucy maid. The 1940, British version has Diana Wynyard andAnton Walbrook in the leads. The two movies, based on the same play, are very similar, withsome scenes playing out identically, right down to the dialogue. But there are some interestingdifferences. The 1940 version is tighter (being some 30 minutes shorter), while the 1944 editionis more lush. Class prejudice is more acutely felt in the British take on things too. Also intriguingis the different brand of sinister foreigner: Boyer is suavely French, while Walbrook is chillyGerman. Either way, great fun, with wonderfully moody cinematography.
The sound is mono on both films, and is generally fine. The hiss is minimal on the ‘44 film,but is quite noticeable on the ‘40 version, particularly when there is no backing music. No stereoremixes have been attempted (which is good).
As with the sound, so with the picture. The ‘40 version shows its age much more noticeablythan the remake, with a fair bit of speckling, and some shots are very soft. The later film isn’tperfect, with some flicer and speckling, but the image is much sharper. There is no edgeenhancement in either case, and the black-and-white is fascinatingly moody in both, with theearlier film being much starker in look.
All the extras are on Side B (with the 1940 film). Here you have the ‘44 film’s theatricaltrailer, a newsreel of the ‘44 Oscar ceremony, and a 10-minute look back on the ‘44 film withreflections by Bergman’s daughter and Angela Lansbury. Absent is any reference to the earlierpicture. The main screen of the menu is scored.
A neat package, though a bit thin on the features. Given MGM’s attempt to suppress (evendestroy) the 1940 film, having both on one disc is a wonderful historical treat, and makes thisdisc an excellent companion piece to the recent Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde double-bill.
Special Features List
- Reflections on Gaslight
- 1944 Theatrical Trailer
- Oscar Ceremonies Newsreel