“Something’s happened lately — these moods are getting deeper and longer.”
Composer George Bone (Laird Cregar) suffers from sound-induced blackouts, during which he commits crimes he can’t remember. When he’s jilted by a manipulative dance hall singer (Linda Darnell), he commits one murder too many, and a Scotland Yard doctor (George Sanders) is hot on his trail.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, Laird Cregar gives one of his best, most sympathetic “psycho performances” in this “wildly stylized period noir” — released just two months after his premature death by heart attack at the age of 30. Cregar plays Bone as a quietly insecure, well-meaning artist whose physically imposing body functions as a scarily efficient tool for destruction while also belying a gentler nature. Cregar’s performance here shows ample evidence of his burgeoning talent; he masterfully combines broadly psychotic behavior with a range of subtle gestures a la Brando in On the Waterfront. Watch the way he idly scratches a Siamese cat on its head with the tip of a fan, for instance, or quietly adjusts his jacket collar when walking into the room where he recently — albeit unknowingly — tried to strangle his friend.
In addition to Cregar’s nuanced performance, Hangover Square benefits from both “wonderful period detail” and “bizarre direction” by John Brahm. The opening scene of the movie — in which Bone murders an antiques dealer, then flees in confusion — is filmed with “wild angles, camera distortion, [and] swooping crane shots”, thus immediately evoking the protagonist’s crazed frame of mind. This stylized camera work is repeated each time Bone gets knocked into an alternate state of consciousness, and ultimately builds towards the film’s baroquely melodramatic ending — one which effectively conveys the misfortune of a genius betrayed by his own mind.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Laird Cregar’s excellent performance in what was tragically both his first and last top-billed role
- Linda Darnell as the seductively beautiful singer who meets a fiery fate
- Creative camera work, lighting, and set designs
- Bernard Herrmann’s dramatic score
Yes. While not as renowned as Brahm’s 1944 flick The Lodger (another movie in which Cregar plays a psychotic serial-killer — Jack the Ripper), film fanatics will undoubtedly want to see Cregar in his final performance.