HANGOVER SQUARE (John Brahm, 1945)

Despite a few showy though by no means expressive shots, including the opening bravura one, Hangover Square is surely the lamest film by John Brahm that I’ve seen. Set in Edwardian London, meant thereby to capitalize on the success of Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944), this moody thriller is a clever variant on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—not Robert Louis Stevenson’s brilliant Victorian novella, but the movie versions that gave Jekyll/Hyde two love interests who are polar opposites: one, prim, conventional; the other, a whore. Brahm’s film, like Gaslight an adaptation of a work by Patrick Hamilton, revolves around a schizophrenic classical composer who during blackouts—in Hamilton’s 1941 novel, George Harvey Bone also drinks heavily—is a serial killer and pyromaniac. The two women here are the daughter of a distinguished classical conductor and a cheap music hall performer who lures Bone away from the concerto he is working on, feigning romantic interest so he will devote himself to bringing her to stardom. The impetus behind Hamilton’s book was his unreturned love for pre-Hollywood Geraldine Fitzgerald.
     This is a dull film whose single point of (unpleasant) interest is that the “good girl,” a blatant snob, is as selfishly motivated as the “bad girl” is. There is much else to object to: Laird Cregar’s performance as Bone is ridiculously over-the-top; Bernard Hermann’s score, including the concerto, is banal; an adorable cat meets a violent end.

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