Gaslight (1940 film)

Gaslight (marketed in the US as Angel Street) is a 1940 British psychological thriller film directed by Thorold Dickinson which stars Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, and features Frank Pettingell. The film adheres more closely to the original play upon which it is based – Patrick Hamilton's Gas Light (1938) – than the 1944 MGM adaptation. The play had been shown on Broadway as Angel Street,[2] so when the film was released in the United States it was given the same name as before.

Pre-release poster for trade showing
Directed byThorold Dickinson
Produced byJohn Corfield
Written byA. R. Rawlinson
Bridget Boland
Based onGas Light
1938 play
by Patrick Hamilton
StarringAnton Walbrook
Diana Wynyard
Music byRichard Addinsell
CinematographyBernard Knowles
Edited bySidney Cole
Distributed byAnglo-American Film Corp. (UK)
Release date
  • 25 June 1940 (1940-06-25) (UK)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom


Set in Pimlico, London, Alice Barlow (Marie Wright) is murdered by an unknown man, who then ransacks her house, looking for her valuable and famous 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, before long, Paul (Anton Walbrook) has her believing she is losing her sanity. B. G. Rough (Frank Pettingell), a former detective involved in the original murder investigation, immediately suspects him 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 slightly. When Bella comments on the lights' dimming, he tells her that she is imagining things. Bella is persuaded that she is hearing noises, unaware that Paul enters the upper floors from the house next door. The sinister interpretation of the change in light levels is part of a larger pattern of deception to which Bella is subjected. It is revealed that Paul is a bigamist. He is the wanted Louis Bauer, who has returned to the house to search for the rubies he was unable to find after the murder.



Encouraged by the success of the play and film, MGM bought the remake rights, but with a clause insisting that all existing prints of Dickinson's version be destroyed,[3] even to the point of trying to destroy the negative, so that it would not compete with their more highly publicised 1944 remake starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and Joseph Cotten.[4][5] "Fortunately they failed, and now the British film has been restored by the BFI and issued in the UK on Blu-ray in a pristine print."[6]

Rotten Tomatoes tallied a 100% score, based on 6 professional reviews.[7]

Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 1/2 stars (out of 4), enthusing, "Electrifying atmosphere, delicious performances, and a succinctly conveyed sense of madness and evil lurking beneath the surface of the ordinary."[8]

The Time Out critic wrote, "Nothing like as lavish as the later MGM version ... But in its own small-scale way a superior film by far. Lurking menace hangs in the air like a fog, the atmosphere is electric, and Wynyard suffers exquisitely as she struggles to keep dementia at bay."[9]

Gaslight as expression

The psychological term gaslighting, which describes a form of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality, originated from the play and its two film adaptations. Gaslighting means emotionally manipulating others by undermining their confidence and calling their credibility into question.[10]


  1. "Gaslight (1940)". BBFC. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  2. League, The Broadway. "Angel Street – Broadway Show". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  3. Brown, Geoff (2003–14). "Dickinson, Thorold (1903–1984)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  4. Fristoe, Roger. "Gaslight (1940)" on
  5. Horne, Philip (4 October 2008). "Thorold Dickinson's 1949 film The Queen of Spades has been called 'a masterpiece' by Martin Scorsese – so why is his work not better known?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  6. "Gaslight (1940 and 1944)". 17 April 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  7. "Gaslight". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  8. "Gaslight (1940) – Overview". Turner Classic Movies Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  9. "Gaslight". Time Out. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  10. Rush, Florence (February 1992). The best-kept secret: sexual abuse of children. Human Services Institute. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-8306-3907-6. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  • Vermilye, Jerry. The Great British Films Citadel Press, 1978. pp. 52–54. ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.