Gaslight (1940): British Psychological Thriller, Starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard

Thorold Dickinson directed Gaslight (aka Angel Street), a British psychological thriller, starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard.

The film adheres more closely to the original play, Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 “Gas Light,” than the 1944 MGM adaptation by George Cukor, which is a better film with Ingrid Bergman in the lead.

The play had been shown on Broadway as Angel Street, so when the film was released in the United States it was given the same name as before.

Set in Pimlico, London, Alice Barlow (Marie Wright) is murdered by an unknown man, who then ransacks her house, looking for her valuable rubies. The house remains empty for years, until newlyweds Paul and Bella Mallen move in.

Bella (Diana Wynyard) soon finds herself misplacing small objects, and Paul (Anton Walbrook) gradually drives her into insanity.

Enter B. G. Rough (Frank Pettingell), a former detective involved in the original murder investigation, who suspects Paul of Alice Barlow’s murder.

Paul lights the gas lamps to search the closed-off upper floors, which causes the rest of the lamps in the house to dim. When Bella yells Paul about it, he claims it’s a product of her imagination. Bella, rather naively, is persuaded that she is hearing noises, unaware that Paul enters the upper floors from the house next door.

The change in light levels is part of a larger pattern of deception to which Bella is subjected. Then it’s revealed that Paul is a bigamist, and he is Louis Bauer, who returned to the house for the rubies, which he could not find after the murder.