Adapted from Patrick Hamilton's successful 1938 play (re-titled “Angel Street,” for American audiences), the first film version was withdrawn by MGM when the studio purchased the remake rights, and rumors of print and negative destruction persisted for years – adding a certain mystique to this hard-to-find thriller.
Freed from the vaults, Warner Bros has found a print in relatively excellent condition; aside from some general nicks, the British version of “Gaslight” proves itself to be a lean, tightly paced thriller, with sharp photography and expert direction by underrated director Thorold Dickinson.
Quite Hitchcockian in tone, the film also benefits from an effectively subdued performance by Diana Wynward, as the emotionally brutalized wife of beastly Anton Walbrook. Better known for less-nasty roles in several Powell and Pressburger films, Walbrook's a monster in a china shell; so thoroughly confident in his scheming, that a mere tonal shift in addressing his wife sends the poor creature into a deep well of self-doubt, never shattering his true intentions.
Richard Addinsell's score also shines in the basic mono sound mix, and viewers will find the lack of Hollywood melodrama refreshing, as the screenplay economically exploits an existing abusive marriage without flashbacks or backstory tangents.
Part of a double-bill with MGM's 1944 remake (on Side A), the extras relating to the latter are archived on the B-side. See our separate review for full details.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan