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USA 1945
Directed by
John Brahm
77 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Hangover Square

Hangover Square belongs with works like Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray both for its late-Victorian setting and its interest in the schizoid divide in the human psyche.

Based on the novel by an English writer whose heyday was the 1920s and 30s, Patrick Hamilton, whose plays were the basis of George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) the story concerns a classical composer George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar) who suffers from amnesiac bouts during which he commits seemingly random murders. However when he falls for music hall singer, Netta Longdon (Linda Darnell) who uses him as a means to further her career, his violence becomes much more directed.

I have not read Hamilton’s novel but certainly this schizophrenic behaviour is not by today's standards of psychological realism well handled here.  George Sanders plays what is supposed to be a psychologist of sorts but the shift from apparently random attacks of which Bone is as much a victim as a perpetrator to vengeful murder at which point he becomes a far less sympathetic character is passed off as some kind of nervous condition but with no apparent explanation for the emergence of intent.

Despite this lapse the film has a certain appeal. Cregar, who had appeared the year earlier in Brahm’s The Lodger, in his first and last starring role (apparently in an attempt to turn himself into leading man material he went on a crash diet that weakened his heart), if nothing else is not your typical male lead, and his soft-spoken, slightly distracted delivery makes for a credible character. Darnell is first-class as the gold-digging soubrette and Sanders is in his usual supercilious form. Brahm gives the film plenty of over-the-top histrionics, culminating in Bone thundering away on his Concerto (penned by Bernard Herrmann and sounding a little like something that would have been played at the time) as the concert hall burns down. As Sanders says, “It’s better this way”.  By no means a major film, Hangover Square is nonetheless worthwhile, particularly for anyone who enjoys late Victorian period films.




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