Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

HANGOVER SQUARE


HANGOVER SQUARE (1945). Director: John Brahm.

George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar in his last film appearance) is a composer in late 19th century London who is distracted from working on his serious music by his infatuation with a pretty singer, Netta (Linda Darnell), who pressures him with kisses to write songs for her. But Bone has a bigger problem -- in that loud sounds send him into a psychotic trance and lead him into violence (which is made clear in the very first scene). Although it is not a mystery in the classic sense, Hangover Square is undeniably a well-crafted suspense film that holds the attention and rarely telegraphs what's coming next. One outstanding sequence has Bone hauling a dead body up to the top of a Guy Fawkes day bonfire (Brahm put a similar sequence in The Mad Magician in 1954 but it was not as effective). The climax of the film features Bone's concerto (actually composed by Bernard Herrmann, whose score for the film is excellent), a striking and unusual work, as "modern" as it is "romantic." Linda Darnell looks great and gives a saucy, fine performance as Netta. Cregar is, frankly, a bit disappointing, lacking the passion -- for both his music and Netta -- that the part requires. George Sanders scores, as usual, as a police psychiatrist. Glenn Langan of The Amazing Colossal Man fame has little to do as Netta's suitor, but does it well. Faye Marlowe is lovely and more than competent as a student of Bone's who loves and fears for him. With a stronger lead performance and some extra touches this might have emerged a masterpiece. Very well photographed by Joseph LaShelle.

Verdict: Fascinating and macabre. ***1/2.

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