Gaslight: Inside a tormented mind

Oct 4, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A fascinating story, interesting sets and scenes, and fine performances.

Cons:Some viewers will dislike the slow pace and might suffer claustrophobia along with Paula.

The Bottom Line: I strongly recommend this to anyone who doesn't mind a slow pace and enjoys psychological thrillers with good acting and intriguing sets.


In Victorian London, an entertainer named Alice Alquist is savagely murdered. Her famous jewels are missing but are never fenced. Her nice Paula (Ingrid Bergman) finds the body. Paula goes abroad to school. She marries an older man named Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) who persuades her that they should return to her childhood home.

Once there, things begin going strangely haywire. Paula discovers a letter from a man she does not know named Sergis Bauer and Gregory is inexplicably upset by the find. Soon it seems that Paula is sinking into mental illness as she seems to suffer memory lapses and to be constantly misplacing and secreting items. Gregory grows increasingly impatient with and angry at his wife who is apparently an unconscious kleptomaniac. He also begins flirting with their housemaid, the pretty and saucy Nancy Oliver (Angela Lansbury). The entire baffling situation attracts the attention and suspicions of Scotland Yard police officer Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotton). The Antons have a slightly eccentric neighbor named Miss Thwaites who chats incessantly about murder mysteries.

Filmed in black and white, the movie is full of shadows that add to a sense of menace. The Internet Movie Database relates, “the sets are deliberately overfilled with bric-a-brac to emphasize Paula’s increasing sense of claustrophobia.” This was an effective touch. The 1944 version of Gaslight moves at a slow, deliberate pace that works to draw us ever closer to the sensitive and tormented Paula. Scenes like a guided tour of the Tower of London and description of its bloody history as well as walks through fog-enshrouded streets lend a powerful sense of foreboding.

Charles Boyer plays Gregory with an oily charm while Ingrid Bergman gives Paula a sense of nerve-wracked vulnerability. Joseph Cotton is a believable and dignified law enforcement officer and Angela Lansbury is suitably sexy. The character of Miss Thwaites (Dame Whitty) adds a touch of comic relief to a movie that is pretty grim.

Gaslight is a memorable journey into a tormented mind that boasts a surprise ending with its revelation of the source of that torment.


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