Blu-ray Review: Hangover Square | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, March 20th, 2023  

Hangover Square

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Nov 10, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar) is turn-of-the-century London’s most promising young composer; he also happens to suffer from a bizarre affliction that turns him into a murderous monster when overstressed. (The clueless killer wakes up hours later with no memory of his evil deeds, or pieces of evidence left behind.) This, of course, leads to an especially deadly situation when he’s ensnared by a heartless seductress: a talentless lounge singer who goads him into writing endless pop ditties for her to sing rather than focus on finishing a new concerto he’s due to perform for his wealthy benefactor in a matter of days. When he learns his conniving chanteuse only wanted him for his melodies, this triggers Bone’s most dastardly fugue state yet, sending Scotland Yard’s finest on an urgent manhunt.

Hangover Square was the final film and passion project of classic heavy Laird Cregar. Fresh off his defining role as Jack the Ripper in 1944’s The Lodger, Cregar himself pushed for 20th Century Fox to option Hangover Square‘s basis novel. His hope was that the Jeckyl/Hyde nature of the starring role would help showcase his range as an actor, and that the character’s gentler side might highlight his potential as a leading man. Cregar’s attempt to stave off typecasting would ultimately have proven fruitless, as the studio made subtle shifts in the script – changing the setting to Edwardian London to echo The Lodger, and playing up the horrors of the character’s evil side – which eventually led Cregar to sour on the project, and make a public fit about his distaste for the director and studio who employed him. While all of this was going on, the hulking actor – who stood 6’3 and weighed around 260 pounds, built more like a defensive tackle than romantic lead – put himself through a dangerous (and likely pill-aided) crash diet, dropping nearly 100 pounds in a matter of months. Shortly after undergoing a surgical procedure to reduce the size of his stomach, Cregar had a series of fatal heart attacks and died before leaving the hospital, all at the young age of 31. Hangover Square would be released two months later.

Hangover Square is a short (77 minutes) but effective little noir film, not on the same level as The Lodger but with a few tense, memorable setpieces, a solid score by Psycho’s Bernard Hermann, and nice cinematography from future Oscar-winner Joseph LaShelle. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray treatment of the 1945 film comes packed with extras. The foremost among them is The Tragic Mask, a short documentary about the (similarly short, sadly) life and career of star Laird Cregar. Two full-length audio commentaries are also included, as well as a radio adaptation of the film released after Cregar’s death, where Vincent Price replaced Cregar in the lead role.


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