Swimming against the tide again it seems.....
I had planned to watch Rebecca again sometime soon. This film so strongly resembled that basic premise, a woman psychologically dominated by the ghost of another in a grand house, that I will put it off for a while. Olivier's ambiguous character so central to that film working, sets a standard that Boyer does not live up to. It wouldn't be a spoiler to say that from very early on, his suspicious manipulation is too overt. Lots of "Oh Darling, can't you remember me saying…." etc. His desire for diamonds as he dribbles over The Crown Jewels at The Tower of London followed closely by a reveal on missing jewels, just isn't good suspense direction.
One claim for the greatness of Howard Hawks is that he may have the reputation as the great Hollywood studio director- the "uberhack", but whichsoever genre he was asked to engage in, he performed with consummate professionalism. Gaslight has George Cukor in charge and just like Stanley Donen's misfire with Charade, he seems to be struggling with pace and tone, so important in suspense.
Both the heavy-handedness of Boyer and Angela Lansbury's colossally insolent servant have them acting in a horror film while Ingrid Bergman is doing her best to be her very Hitchcockian heroine. She does have the class to be pushed around psychologically without being a nervous wreck, as Notorious shows. Cukor and Donen are two directors who define the word "Gay" in the old fashioned Hollywood way, so dabbling in the dark arts and even employing two suspense heavyweights like Bergman and Cary Grant, oh yes and Joseph Cotten in these films is too near the knuckle.
At some point in time, the original of this film or this story in general, had to have been made and maybe this is it. It feels incredibly derivative. On its own this isn't a problem but I found it poorly executed. This is listed as a mystery on imdb, but there isn't any mystery. A suspense film can have all the mysteries revealed early on, like Notorious, but still be taut. Gaslight would have to stand as a suspense film since it doesn't keep its cards close to its chest to be a mystery. Hardly any suspense to be had, and I'm not going mad.