Experiment Perilous (1945): Jacques Tourneur’s Suspense-Thriller

Made in the wake of the successful thriller “Gaslight,” directed by George Cukor in 1944 and winning Ingrid Bergman her first Best Actress Oscar, Jacques Tourneur’s “Experiment Perilous” is a well directed suspense-thriller.

The story takes place in 1903. During a train trip, psychiatrist Dr. Huntington Bailey (George Brent) meets a friendly older lady (Olive Blakeney), when she turns to him for reassurance during a torrential downpour.

She tells him that she is going to visit her brother Nick and his lovely young wife Allida, both of whom she had raised.

Once in New York, Bailey hears that his train companion suddenly died while visiting her brother for tea. Shortly afterwards, he meets the strange couple and becomes suspicious of Nick’s treatment of his wife.

Nick (Paul Lukas) keeps Allida (Hedy Lamarr), whom he is trying to pass off as crazy, a virtual prisoner in their town house, cutting off all contact with the outside world.

Bailey then decides to attempt to free Allida from the control of the insanely jealous Nick.

A frenzied gun battle and fist fight in their home, featuring the destruction of several large aquariums, replete with shattered glass, gushing water and floundering fish, is the film’s most memorable scene.

The house burns to the ground because of Nick’s actions (killing him), but Allida, her son and Hunt end up living happily in the country.


Oscar Nominations: 1


Interior Decoration (b/w): Albert S. D’Agostino and Jack Okey, art direction; Darrell Silvera and Claude Carpenter, set decoration


Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:


The winner in that category was “Blood on the Moon,” in a race that included Fox’s “The Keys of the Kingdom,” Paramount’s “Love Letters,” and MGM’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”


For better works by the director Jacques Tourneur (1904-1977), see “Cat People” (1942), “I Walked with a Zombie” (1943), and, of course the classic noir, “Out of the Past.” 



Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Produced, written by Warren Duff, based on the novel by Margaret Carpenter
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Edited by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release date: December 29, 1944
Running time 91 minutes

Hedy Lamarr as Allida Bederaux
George Brent as Dr. Huntington Bailey
Paul Lukas as Nick Bederaux
Albert Dekker as Clag
Carl Esmond as Maitland
Olive Blakeney as Cissie
George N. Neise as Alec
Margaret Wycherly as Maggie
Stephanie Bachelor as Elaine
Mary Servoss as Miss Wilson
Julia Dean as Deria
Sam McDaniel as Train Porter
William Post Jr. as District Attorney
Bill Ward as young Alec