05Feb23: scary movie time…

“It’s getting close to the start of this week’s film noir, ‘Hangover Square’, Doug.”

“There’s a kitty in it for me and classical-style music and pretty girls for you!”

“Geez! I get it. He’s about to smoosh lips with her.”

“Where’s the kitty? All I’ve seen so far is lip smooshing and a couple murders.”

“I thought you said this featured a kitty, Doug.”

“Oh no! When he does this another girl gets killed. I didn’t like how he scared the kitty under the piano. I’d run out into the street, too!”

“Well, it turned out bad for the kitty, didn’t it? Run over by a carriage. I’ve seen enough.”


I knew the kitty was doomed as soon as the composer (Laird Cregar) said he’d “take care of it”. The movie was a bit prescient. Linda Darnell’s character is murdered and her corpse gets placed on the top of a Guy Fawkes Day bonfire – the film takes place in London at the start of the 20th Century. Ick! Sadly, she actually would die several years later in a fire. George Sanders, a forensic psychiatrist in the film, would commit suicide years later, tired of life. Laird Cregar took off weight to break out of the bad guy stereotype roles he had till then. He established himself in “Hangover Square” as capable of handling a romantic lead. After the film, he had bariatric surgery to continue the weight loss and died four days later.

See, the kitty just died in the movie, Andy. Real life is more than noir enough.  

The movie was really bizarre in an entertaining way. The composer, Cregar, is set off on mayhem when he hears a dissonant noise. He murders three in the course of the movie, attempts a fourth.

The music played throughout is supposedly the composer’s and is part of a concerto he’s composing. From the standpoint of film making, I felt the man behind the music, real composer Bernard Herrmann, matched the mood and scenes of the movie brilliantly, especially the dramatic final scenes.

In those final scenes, George Sanders’ character, a forensic psychiatric-like fellow working for Scotland Yard, has finally figured out Cregar’s character is behind the several murders but assures the composer while the composer is dressing to play his concerto that he won’t hang, just be held for his own good in one of those hellhole 19th Century asylums, I guess. That isn’t agreeable to Cregar because Sanders wants to take him away before he can play his concerto.

Cregar escapes to the concert hall, having locked the door on Sanders.

Cregar manages to get away from Sanders long enough to play all but the conclusion of his concerto when Sanders, who’s been aided to gain freedom by bobbies hearing him pounding on the locked door Cregar’s imprisoned him behind, arrives at the concert hall.

A bunch of stuff happens, then Cregar goes with the Scotland Yard inspectors and Sanders to a separate room, while his girlfriend finishes playing the concerto, expertly, not missing a single note of a concerto she’s sight reading through tears….till – hold your hat on! – Cregar, held now in another room by Sanders and the Scotland Yard inspectors, picks up a lighted oil lamp and tosses it, starting a fire that quickly fills the concert hall in flames.

While everyone tries to get out to safety, Cregar returns to the piano and continues playing the concerto till his and its end. Outside the enflamed concert hall, Sanders, helpfully, concludes there is no point trying to save him when another person poses the question. “It’s better this way.”

Whew ! Cold!