Directed by: George Cukor
Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty, Angela Lansbury
Gaslight (1944) is another of those intriguing examples of the mammoth that was MGM buying up the rights to an earlier film, remaking it and the doing their damndest to make sure no comparison could be made to their version. After all, any film from MGM just had to be the last word on any subject. This round, the studio is supposed to have gone to the extra trouble of trying to have the original negative and every print of the 1940 British version destroyed. (They did not succeed.) Frankly, the earlier film is more exciting. But it might be said that what the MGM version lacks as a mystery thriller, it makes up for in star power and production design. The plot is essentially the same: A fortune-seeking, almost-certainly murderous husband (Charles Boyer) is trying to make his wife (Ingrid Bergman) think she’s losing her mind so that he can convince her that the gaslight lowering and the sounds coming from the floor above are all in her imagination. It’s rather rare nowadays to see any version of the play on which both films are based, because it seems to have drifted into obscurity—though not long ago it was a staple of rep and community theaters. (I was surprised when the question, “Do you think she’s trying to Gaslight you?” arose in The Darjeeling Limited (2007), and I found almost no one who understand the line.) There’s nothing really wrong with this version—it’s glossy, slick, involving, well cast—but it’s just a little tepid in the thrill department.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Gaslight at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.