Gaslight (1940)

Hollywood has a long history of taking some of the best European movies and remaking them for the domestic American market, usually also exporting the film to the country of origin, and many times resulting in the remake being seen as the “real” version.

Gaslight is a good example. Based on a stage play, this exquisite little British mystery takes place in a London house where a murder has been committed. A married couple move in after several years, but something is not right. The husband tries to make his wife believe she is insane, and he is hiding a terrible secret. A police investigator starts looking into the case, but will he find the truth in time?

Diana Wynyward and Anton Walbrook in Gaslight (1940)

It took only four years for it to be remade, and today it is mainly the remake that is remembered and considered a classic. In fact, MGM so much wanted their version to be the “proper” one that they included a clause in the contract that all copies of the original should be destroyed. Fortunately, they did not succeed. The 1944 remake is also available at the Internet Archive, but has very low resolution, so I must recommend the original foremost, if the IA is your only source.

It is an interesting and educational prospect to watch these two films back to back (preferably, I think, starting with the remake). They are respectively excellent examples of British and Hollywood 1940s productions, and even though the basic plot is the same, the two movies are very different. Not only in the details, but also in the entire build-up of the plot and the interplay between the main characters.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that the Hollywood remake is uncommonly European. Not only does it retain its London setting (something rather unusual for Hollywood remakes), but it also has a British director, a French leading male, and a Swedish leading female.

The original is best enjoyed on its own merits. In spite of what I said about comparing the two versions, the original stands perfectly well on its own, and is in some ways the better of the two.

Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard in Gaslight (1940)

Download link
Year: 1940
Running time: 1 h 24 min
Director: Thorold Dickinson
Stars: Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (544×400)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: Cinepack (701 M)

Horror Express (1972)

Once a year, about this time, the Swedish railway companies yet again are taken by surprise by the first major snowfall. This year, hundreds of departures were cancelled in southern Sweden because of anticipated wind and snow. Fortunately for me, I live farther north and had no problems this time. Critics say that the trains purchased in recent years are of insufficient quality and poorly adapted to the Swedish climate. Electric switches that freeze tend to be another source of problems.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to go back to steam engines and manual switches. At least on film, there never seem to be any problems with old trains running through winter lanscapes, such as the one we find in the old horror film Horror Express. This is one film at the Internet Archive I might have overlooked entirely if it was not for the nice Spanish blog Corriente textual, a good source of IA recommendations in case you run out of suggestions here.

Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Alice Reinheart in Horror Express (1972)

Horror Express was made in Spain with a Spanish director, but with an English-speaking cast. In spite of its origin, it has the look and feel of an old Hammer film from the 1960s (Hammer Film Productions is famous for its many horror films, not least with Christopher Lee as Dracula). This likeness was probably conscious on the part of producer and director. The pacing, dialogue and music all remind of Hammer’s style.

The choice of actors also suggest a deliberate nod to Hammer. Christopher Lee here plays a slightly mad scientist who has found an ancient ape-like corpse in China and wants to secretly transport it on train through Russia. (But is it really dead?) Peter Cushing, another actor who did many roles for Hammer, plays a doctor who tries to save the situation as it goes increasingly out of hand. Another interesting actor, although he has no connection with Hammer as far as I know, is Telly Savalas who plays a Russian cossack.

As a horror film, Horror Express feels aged today. The monster make-up is good enough, but the special effects are far from spectacular, and the pseudo-science in the dialogue makes me cringe. Fortunately, the suspense is good and the acting is decent overall; especially Lee and Cushing are good. And the interiors of the old railway cars are just beautiful.

This film is best enjoyed if you are a Hammer fan and want to experience something similar.

Telly Savalas in Horror Express (1972)

Horror Express
Download link
Year: 1972
Running time: 1 h 28 min
Director: Eugenio Martín
Stars: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Telly Savalas
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: Medium (712×439; not counting black border)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG2 (1.1 G)