Experiment Perilous (1945)

Genres - Drama, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Release Date - Dec 29, 1944 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Although often compared to Gaslight due to the similarity of its subject matter, Experiment Perilous has enough individuality to stand on its own, rather than to be considered an imitator. Where Experiment falls down, however, is in not having as compelling or rewarding a screenplay as its more famous relative. The basic ingredients are there -- a tormented man seeking to destroy the woman he alternately loves and hates (with a son similarly at risk thrown in for good measure), the heroic outsider coming to the rescue, and a heavy dose of psychological underpinnings. Unfortunately, the story gets quite muddled (not because of its heavy use of flashback, but because of its unclear logic), the characters are not given the depth one might wish, and the psychology is heavyhanded and obvious. There are some nice touches here and there, but Experiment succeeds as a moderately entertaining thriller because of the personal stamp of director Jacques Tourneur and the dramatic camerawork of Tony Gaudio. Together, these two men create an atmospheric, moody tale that is both beautiful and chaotic, and create a good deal of suspense and tension along the way. They do this despite the fact that of their trio of xstars, only George Brent turns in an adequate - and just adequate, no more -- performance. Hedy Lamarr, of course, is stunning to look at, but she simply lacks the ability to carry off such an important role. The much more talented Paul Lukas overplays far too much, missing many opportunities to flesh the character out and make him more rounded. Fortunately, the basic story and the work of the director and cinematographer carry Experiment past these flaws; the result is far from a total success, but it does make the film a nice alternative for fans of "women driven mad" sub-genre.