Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Cinema - Bug-Eyed Composer, Bitten By Green-Eyed Monster, Finds Fiery Finale

John Brahm's Hangover Square (1945) illustrates yet again that the most dangerous thing a young chanteuse can do to a psychotic composer with bug eyes and a predilection for Norfolk jackets is get engaged to the slimy theatrical producer mere moments after snuggling with said composer in a hansom cab.

Laird Cregar plays composer George Harvey Bone, an absent-minded sort who writes ghastly concertos that aren't as bad as they sound. Along the way he gets snookered by music hall vixen Netta Longdon, who casts a hell of a big Netta over him, convincing him to write some pop tunes for her. George doesn't take much convincing once she's commenced shaking her considerable decolletage at him.

But what ol' Netta doesn't know is that George suffers from fugue states, brought on by discordant sounds, like a bunch of pipes falling off a wagon, or his own compositions.

And in these states, he's likely to do anything, and does.

The ever elegant and vaguely creepy George Sanders plays Dr. Allan Middleton, who suspects George of having a hand in the spate of violence in and around Hangover Square, but he can't prove it.

There's a lot of plot that interferes with the story but it all gets going when George attacks the theatrical producer, and then goes into one of his murderous funks. He lurks around Netta's building, kills her and carries her body off.

And in a stroke of luck, the sort that only seems to happen to the temporarily deranged, it's Guy Fawkes Day, and the street urchins are having a bonfire. George climbs up a ladder and sticks Netta's body, disguised by a mask, on the top of the pile. He also gets his pants singed on the way down, a fact that proves to be his downfall.

The Hangover Square Concerto was written by Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock's favorite composer, and the final scene is a stunner, with the music and a long plan-sequence that takes the audience around the recital hall, back to the musicians, to George, and back out again, creating a marvelously paranoid and suspenseful atmosphere.

And George, who has managed to set the place on fire, dies while hammering out the final chords.

Great stuff. Sort of a CACA film, in that Cregar's eyes pop out of his head when he goes into psycho mode. Definitely a B movie, so it gets an enthusiastic three coil rating.

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