Gaslight is a film that I watched a lot in my Ingrid Bergman phase.
Don’t understand my Bergman phase? Well, let me set the stage for you. Every young film fan has these weird periods were they get super obsessed with a particular talent. I knew a guy that got super into Audrey Hepburn and a lady that only could watch Robert Redford movies made between 1967-1976. Why that time frame? Who knows?
The point is that it happens. Recently, the armchair psychologists have been staging quite the rediscovery of this film. Is it due to its impact on British cinema or its early Film Noir leanings? Oh no! It’s because we’ve entered into a weird phase of PostModernism. If everything is real, but all is subjective…then what actually happened?
Having both versions of the film present on the Blu-ray highlights the difference a short amount of time makes. The 1940 version hit British theaters right when World War II was getting underway. It was one of the last few major releases before The Blitz disrupted modern English life. While that sounds impressive, remember that MGM wanted all prints of the 1940 film destroyed before releasing their 1944 version.
That sounds super crazy now. Well, it was crazy then. However, it was an attempt to minimize exposure to a regional success. Such tactics were part of the 1940s studio system, but the shortsightedness is pretty disgusting. Even then, it better serves the plot of the film. Powerful men doing what they can to take control of female driven stories.
Ingrid Bergman does something with this role that deserved the Oscar win. It’s not enough to play a victim, but she plays someone who has been conditioned to suffer for her entire life. Whether it’s related to her parents dying, her aunt being killed or the years of training spent being an opera singer. Bergman creates a portrait of a woman who lives for sacrifice and nothing more.
When she finally gets a chance to address her bum hand, she gets a bit of the ol’ Gaslight. Angela Lansbury and Charles Boyer offer terrific Oscar nominated supporting roles. Still, this film is probably the first true domestic psychological thriller of the motion picture era.
The Blu-ray comes with both versions of the film, featurettes, the 1944 Oscar newsreel and a trailer. This is the kind of packed release that makes me glad Warner Archive exists. Gaslight had a pretty terrific DVD release and it’s amazing to see the Blu-ray holding its own. Whomever is doing the 1080p transfers at Warner Archive deserves a pay raise.
Gaslight has never looked better.