Plot: What’s it about?
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) used to live with her aunt Alice, but then a tragic turn of events altered her life forever. Alice was a well known entertainer, a singer who could dazzle crowds and managed to acquire some decent wealth. But someone must have valued her jewels more than her life, as she was murdered in her own home. Paula was a young woman at the time, so she was taken and sent to live in Italy. There she has fine tuned her own skills as a singer, thanks to a lot of dedication and a great mentor. But of late, she has seemed unfocused on her trade, which has her mentor worried. After all, she has been so driven and focused, there can only be one reason for her sudden lapses. He asks her about the situation, but he already knows the situation, which she confirms as the presence of love. When she states that marriage is quite close, she is let out of her studies to pursue her new life. The man involved is Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), with whom she has fallen head over heels in love. The two are soon wed, but the honeymoon is over once they move into her aunt’s former mansion, at Gregory’s request. He soon begins to confront her about odd behavior, such as delusions and lapses in memory. But is she losing her mind, or does he have some kind of sinister plan in motion?
This is the kind of release film buffs go nuts over, as we have an excellent feature and a rare original version on the same disc. When George Cuckor’s production of Gaslight was underway, the studio wanted to destroy all the prints of Thorold Dickinson’s 1940 British production. The request wasn’t fulfilled, but the original Gaslight has been rare at times, so having both editions on this release is quite a treat. The storyline is a wicked one, the kind you’d expect to find in an Alfred Hitchcock project, full of tension and atmosphere. Cuckor (Les Girls, Adam’s Rib) directs with immense skill, so all of the suspense and tension are in full bloom. The film begins as innocent, lulling us into a romantic setting, only to turn to a darker tone in masterful fashion. The switch in tone is not a quick or obvious, instead the mood fades from light to dark, so the tension is slow and effective. A startling change in tone can work, but not often as well as this kind of slow burn, as we feel just as trapped as the characters once the heat is turned up. Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for her role here, while Charles Boyer, Angela Lansbury, and Joseph Cotten also provide superb performances, which ensures all the hard work pays off. This is a well crafted thriller in all respects, so when you factor in the bonus original version, this release is a massive value. So if you like effective chillers, make sure you don’t miss Warner’s edition of Gaslight.
Video: How does it look?
Gaslight is presented in full frame, as intended. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but Warner has pulled out all the stops and given us a superb visual treatment. The print is not pristine, but it has minor defects at worst, which is impressive. A light amount of grain is present and debris can be seen at times, but on the whole, the print looks incredible. The image is never soft, so detail is excellent and the visuals have a good depth level. This does not look like a film made in 1944, as it is much crisper and cleaner than most movies from this period. I saw no problems with contrast, as black levels were stark and consistent, just as we’d want. All in all, a fantastic visual effort for an older picture, so kudos to Warner.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono track covers the basics, but as is the norm with the format, it does little else. But it works well here and I think a new mix would be a waste of resources, so kudos to Warner for keeping with the original tracks on most of their classic releases. I found this to be a solid experience and aside from some slight hiss, this track never slips up too much. The music seems well mixed here, the sound effects remain clear and distinct, and the main focus, the dialogue, is crisp and shows no flaws in the end. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main supplement here is the original 1940 version of Gaslight, which was almost lost forever thanks to MGM’s efforts. But now we can see it for ourselves and while it is not as well crafted as Cukor’s version, it is a well made picture. The tension is thick and the performances are great, so it is a most welcome inclusion. This disc also includes a newsreel from the 1994 Oscar ceremonies, an interview with Pia Lindstrom in which she remembers her mother, Ingrid Bergman, and the film’s theatrical trailer.