Hangover Square (1945)

hangoversquare1

*. I keep wanting to write the title of this movie as Hanover Square. Hangover Square sounds a bit too much like Gin Alley.
*. Here’s the explanation: The novel (by Patrick Hamilton, a now mostly forgotten figure who also wrote the source works for Rope and Gaslight) is set in “darkest Earls Court,” a place that goes by the local nickname of Hangover Square because it has so many late-night drinking establishments. This means something because in the book George Bone is an alcoholic. In the movie this meaning is lost and the title is explained by a street sign that tells us the address really is “Hangover Square.”
*. What a terrific opening crane shot, following the action of the lamplighter from the street, up the lamppost, and then diving through the window into the antique dealer’s shop. Indeed, the crane shots throughout this movie are terrific, as are all of the exaggerated and expressive camera angles.
*. Why Brahm didn’t go on to greater things is a mystery. He kept busy, mostly in television, but without anything to match his work in the ’40s.

hangoversquare2

*. In the opening murder we also see a very early use of the killer’s POV. The movie that’s usually credited with the first extensive use of this technique is The Spiral Staircase, which came out the same year. Who gets bragging rights?
*. Speaking of the opening murder, why does George kill the antique dealer anyway? Did he just happen to be in the shop when he had an episode? We don’t know.
*. Perhaps a better question is why he tries to kill Barbara directly after being rejected by Netta. I suppose it’s because Barbara had just been “badgering” him about Netta, but it still doesn’t seem right.
*. Kim Newman refers to this as basically a remake of The Lodger, and that’s not far from the truth. Zanuck definitely wanted more of the same, and what he got in this case was a similiar story with the same cast, same producer, same director, same screenwriter, and even the same sets.

hangoversquare4

*. The disposal of Netta’s body is pure genius, and creepy, but how the hell did it get by the Breen Office? Even today it seems shocking.
*. Not only is the bonfire huge, but according to the promotional material it was built indoors! How the hell did that get by the fire office?
*. It’s very neat how the film’s actual score, by Bernard Hermann, doubles as Bone’s final concerto. Hermann’s work throughout is standout.
*. It’s hard to believe George is such a sap, but Linda Darnell does a great job as the scheming slut. It’s a conventional role, but she manages to give it some curves. Trivia: Marlene Dietrich was originally slated for the part but it didn’t happen.
*. It’s interesting to note that Cregar and Sanders weren’t particularly thrilled about working on this picture (though Cregar had originally campaigned for it), and both gave Brahm and Fox all kinds of trouble. But they were still professionals and turned in good performances.

hangoversquare6

*. What a great bit of composition in depth as we look POV through the piano, past the conductor, past where Barbara is sitting in the front row, and then following her as she looks behind herself when George Sanders’s Dr. Middleton enters the hall outside the concert room.
*. You can tell Cregar had lost a lot of weight since The Lodger. He doesn’t look healthy at all. Which I guess adds to the role, but was unfortunate.
*. It’s a minor point, but Cregar really doesn’t know how to lift or hold on to a cat, does he? I thought that was something everybody knew how to do, but the poor cross-eyed Siamese here really has to put up with some awkward manhandling.
*. This was Cregar’s last role and you do have to wonder what sort of career he would have had. I can’t help comparing him to Victor Buono, and not just because they were both big men who died young and who were gay. They both landed in similar type material, and seemed capable of much more.
*. I’m not sure I enjoy this film as much as I do The Lodger, but I think it’s probably Brahm’s best work. Looking at the cast, the direction, the music, and the overall atmosphere, I think it’s one of the real hidden gems of 1940’s cinema.

hangoversquare5

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s