Hangover Square (1945)

Hangover Square (1945), directed by John Brahm.

The director, writer and male leads return from The Lodger (1944) for another psycho-killer thriller.

Our murderer is more sympathetic this time: a musician who kills during his blackouts. He doesn't remember afterwards but begins to suspect himself. Loud discordant noises (a hurdy-gurdy, crashing gas pipes) push him over the edge, and he is under much stress from some grifters, stunning, sexy Linda Darnell taking the femme fatale part this time.

What nudges him back to sanity: his tempestuous piano concerto, performed for the big finish, with burning building. This is Bernard Herrmann's music: in later years it was assembled into a 17 minute "Concerto Macabre" and released on CD.

In one of the most bizarre scenes of the period, our composer puts a mask on one of his victims and carries her up a ladder to place her on a huge Guy Fawkes pyre, burning the body and destroying the evidence in public.

Laird Cregar brings his intensity and deep inner conflict to the role. He'd lost 100 pounds since the previous film, his attempt to be more appealing, maybe break out of villain roles. I think the strenuous effort killed him: he died of a heart attack before the film was released.

George Sanders again restrains his natural sarcastic temperament and plays a kindly, insightful police doctor. All three leads do impressive fire stunts at the climax.

Bernard Herrmann score, Joseph LaShelle photography.

Available on DVD with two commentary tracks.