• Hangover Square

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
    Released on: November 21st, 2017.
    Director: John Brahm
    Cast: Laird Cregar, Linda Darnell, George Sanders, Glenn Langan, Alan Napier
    Year: 1945
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    The Movie:

    In an all too short career of under six years, character actor Laird Cregar made an indelible impression on film history. From his mentally disturbed police inspector in I WAKE UP SCREAMING to his debonair devil in HEAVEN CAN WAIT to his unforgettable turn as Jack The Ripper in all but name only in the second version of THE LODGER, Cregar used his enormous gifts to their utmost advantage. With his soulful eyes, imposing size (Cregar was over 6 feet tall and at one time closing in on 300 pounds) and soft mesmerizing voice, his entire presence could be brilliantly disconcerting. This was never more evident than in the film we are discussing here.

    HANGOVER SQUARE would be Cregar’s final film. The actor would not even live to see its release. At the age of 30, he would die in a hospital of multiple heart attacks brought on by a dangerous and brutal weight loss regimen the actor was putting himself through in a misguided effort to be a traditional leading man. HANGOVER was his immediate follow up to THE LODGER and saw the actor reunited with much of the creative team that had aided him so effectively on the Ripper picture: director John Brahm (THE UNDYING MONSTER and too much classic television to count including multiple episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents’), screenwriter Barré Lyndon, co-star George Sanders (ALL ABOUT EVE) and producer Robert Bassler. And while Cregar had lost a considerable amount of weight for his role as mentally tortured composer George Harvey Bone for this outing, his unique physical presence remained almost as potent as was seen in THE LODGER. Originally conceived in a present day setting, by the time HANGOVER SQUARE made it to the screen it was set in the immediate post-Victorian period of 1903 - making it very much a perfect sister film to THE LODGER.

    George Harvey Bone is a promising classical composer. He’s working on an upcoming symphony exhibition under the tutelage of Sir Henry Chapman (Alex Napier of the iconic 60’s television show “Batman” fame). Sir Henry’s lovely daughter Barbara (Faye Marlowe) is romantically involved with the pianist and composer. But George has a serious problem. He’s suffering from blackouts and has a tendency to show up bloodied and confused at the most inopportune places and times. His condition is sound related. Like a deranged Pavlov’s dog, when he hears a certain high or discordant pitch, George goes mad. And he’s terrified that he may be responsible for a murder and fire that occurred at a local antiques dealer’s place of business and simply cannot remember it. Overworked and stressed out, Bone seeks help from psychiatrist Dr. Middleton (George Sanders) who works with Scotland Yard. But Middleton can’t really definitively answer George’s concerns even with the forensic tools at his disposal due to the fire destroying almost all evidence. George continues to feverishly work on his symphony despite the doctor’s admonition to slow down. And things take a decidedly negative turn when George gets involved with nasty little grifter Netta (Linda Darnell), a cheap saloon singer who leads George on sexually while getting him to write pop tunes for her act. When she breaks the news to George that she’s actually going to marry sleazy nightclub impresario Eddie Carstairs (Glenn Langan), all mental bets are off. George is going down in some pretty big flames. Maybe even literally.

    The debut of George’s symphony will be a night to remember.

    This one is very much the Laird Cregar show. While the actor was third billed on THE LODGER despite being the acting engine of that film, here he gets the top line. And he certainly deserves it. While predating the whole concept of method acting by about ten years, that’s pretty much what Cregar is doing on this excursion. He sweats and goes magnificently pop-eyed during his freakout scenes. But while the melodrama is certainly there, it’s kept in check by the pathos that Cregar brings to the role. George is misguided and naive and does some terrible things but he’s completely sympathetic. Darnell plays the striving hussy to perfection. Of course her character is quite the sexist trope, but you can’t help but loathe her. Sanders doesn’t have the flashiest role but he’s solid and interesting and Marlowe is perfect as the suffering woman who truly loves George and wants to help him.

    From a production and staging standpoint HANGOVER SQUARE excels. Brahm’s film foreshadows the more explicit movies soon to be made by the likes of Britain’s Hammer with its flaming climax and gorgeous period sets. In fact, the rousing finale is equal to virtually any film of this type made decades later. This is also a gorgeously shot film with terrific use of shadows and fog. The atmosphere is the equal of THE LODGER.


    Kino bring HANGOVER SQUARE to HD in a 1080p fullframe 1.33.1 black and white transfer that’s billed as a new 4K restoration. As such, you can check off the key boxes. Fine image detail is quite strong. Black levels - crucial to this type of presentation - are excellent and there is no blooming effect. Contrast is stable and the print itself only displays some minor damage. And there is no sign of image tampering like DNR.

    Audio is handled by a nice straight down the line DTS-HD Mono track with nice presence. The music sounds good and all dialog is clear. This is a solid presentation with no tinny elements or audible anomalies that I could hear. Subtitles are provided in English as well.

    The main extras are two audio commentaries and a good featurette on Cregar. Film historian and screenwriter Steve Haberman and actress Faye Marlowe are teamed on the first track. This has the feel of an informal chat with Haberman taking the lead and discussing production techniques used on the film as well as the tensions that existed on the set between director Brahm and Cregar. Marlowe talks about her career, the film and her experiences making it and is quite charming. The second commentary has more of the feel of a good university lecture with film documentarian and author Richard Schickel delving into the movie’s themes and subtext. This is also where you learn the most about the film’s source novel and how it was translated onto the screen. Schickel may be best known for his writings on Clint Eastwood but he clearly knows his 40’s cinema as well.

    “The Tragic Mask: The Laird Cregar Story’ is the aforementioned featurette. It brings together experts like critical horror expert Kim Newman and other historians to discuss the life and legacy of the actor. This is a highly illuminating bite size chunk of film history and well worth your time.

    Rounding things out is a neat vintage radio version of the film starring Vincent Price in the Cregar role. The horror icon does an outstanding job. Interesting fact: Price had a bit of a run doing Cregar's roles on radio after that actor’s death. He also did THE LODGER. Kino don’t give us a HANGOVER SQUARE trailer but do chuck a few from their other titles on this disc for good measure like director Brahm’s THE UNDYING MONSTER.

    The Final Word:

    A brilliant film featuring a stunning lead performance, HANGOVER SQUARE is one of the finest films of the World War II era. Kino’s presentation is top notch and the disc has an impressive selection of worthy special features. It gets my highest possible recommendation.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!