“Would I be likely to do anything criminal during one of these moods?”
In London a shop owner in Fulham is stabbed to death and his shop is set on fire. George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar), suffering from a black out, is wandering down the street as the fire department is trying to put out the flames. George is a composer who has been under stress trying to write a piano concerto. He makes it back home and finds his girlfriend Barbara Chapman (Faye Marlowe) and her father Sir Henry Chapman (Alan Napier) waiting for him.
He confesses to Barbara that he has had another episode and is missing an entire day from his memory. The morning paper has a story about a murder and fire. Wondering if he is responsible he visits Dr. Allan Middleton (George Sanders), a Scotland Yard physician. Middleton tells Bone he needs rest and should go out and see regular people.
Bone goes to a pub and is introduced by his friend Mickey (Michael Dyne) to Netta Longdon (Linda Darnell). Netta is a singer and a gold digger. She has no problem using Bone. She convinces him to write a song for her. Bone falls for Netta’s charm and begins neglecting Barbara.
When Bone sees Netta ditch him and go off in a cab he is angry. Barbara comes by and they have some hard words between each other. After Barbara leaves a load of pipe falls of a truck and makes a loud discordant sound. The sound sends him into an episode. He wanders into the night and attempts to kill Barbara. Whenever Bone is under stress and hears a discordant sound he goes into a murderous trance. When Bone finds Netta is engaged to theatrical producer Eddie Carstairs (Glenn Langan) he is once again driven into another episode. On Guy Fawkes Night, everything comes to a head.
“Hangover Square” was released in 1945 and was directed by John Brahm. It is a film noir. The music of Bernard Hermann figures prominently in this thriller. Murder is only secondary to the madness portrayed by Laird Cregar.
A lot of conflict happened behind the scenes. Laird, who usually played straight villains, is a large man who had an opportunity to show he was more than just bad guy material. To look more like a romantic leading man Cregar went on a crash diet and began taking amphetamines to add him in his weight loss. He lost 100 pounds and his behavior became erratic. He clashed with director Brahm on many occasions. The damage he did to his system resulted in his death at the age of 31 of a heart attack. He died before “Hangover Square” was released.
George Sanders also had some issues while filming. Although he accepted the role he had issues with the script. At one point he had a conflict with the producer Robert Bassler that resulted in Sanders punching Bassler.
Despite the behind the scenes chaos the movie is dark and moody. The acting is fantastic. The story is a basic thriller with no special surprises but what holds your attention is the way everything is laid out. It’s dripping with gothic overtones and psychological drama. Between the stellar performances, the dark cinematography and Hermann’s ominous score “Hangover Square” is a film that earns all the praise it gets.