In 1940, the British version of GASLIGHT debuted. Until very recently, most people didn't even know that it existed, as Hollywood execs bought up all the prints and remade it into an Oscar-winning film (the 1944 version with Ingrid Bergman). When the more famous version debuted in 1944, EXPERIMENT PERILOUS also appeared in theaters and BOTH films are very, very similar. Both films concern a seemingly normal husband who is insane and is trying to drive their wives insane--and it just doesn't seem like a mere coincidence that they both were made at about the same time. Despite the lack of originality, EXPERIMENT PERILOUS is still an excellent film--though I naturally have to knock off a point for being derivative.
As far as the acting goes, it was generally exceptional. I particularly liked Paul Lukas, as the insane husband bent on manipulating and destroying his wife, Heddy Lamar. While sounding like Bela Lugosi (after all, they were both Hungarian), he was menacing and exciting to watch.
As for George Brent, we was his usual competent and interesting self--sort of an "everyman" character and he did a good job. The only negative can't be blamed on Brent but the writers. That's because at the end of the film, there is a really dumb and clichéd moment-something you know cannot possibly happen. That's because in the huge confrontation scene with Lukas, Brent beats him up and kicks away the gun---but he never bothers to pick up the gun and runs to the next room. Then, as the cliché goes, Lukas returns again and it's yet another fight. In real life, you'd either keep the gun or just shoot Lukas to end the threat once and for all!
Hedy Lamarr was the weakest of the main characters, as she was given a typical Hedy Lamarr role. Hollywood insisted on casting her as a zombie-like lady who went through wardrobe change after wardrobe change. Of course she was a beautiful woman, but these sort of "Barbie doll roles" did little to challenge this highly intelligent woman. Sadly, despite having a brilliant mind, you'd never know it from most of the scripts she was given.
I do have a mild complaint, though, about the producer not doing his job well in casting the film. Lukas was a Hungarian and Lamarr was Austrian--yet they played parts that made no sense. First, Lukas spoke with this accent but his sister sounded like a typical American. Second, although Lamarr hid her accent better than most European-born American starlets (such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich), she did NOT sound like a lady from Vermont!! I think Hattie McDaniel or Marjorie Main sounded more like New Englanders than Miss Lamarr! Mentioning where she was from was unnecessary for the plot--they could have easily just said she was from "the country" and left it at that.
Despite several mistakes here and there and a derivative plot, the film still works because it was exciting and captivated me. Plus, although this was made by a "2nd tier studio" (RKO), it looked great--with the most realistic weather in any 1940s film I can recall--with rain, snow and sleet at different times in the film. That and the set designs and decoration were lovely.
Overall, it's worth a look, but my advice is to seek out the original GASLIGHT--it's the best and most original in the genre.