Experiment Perilous (1944)

Hedy Lamarr as Allida Bederaux in Experiment Perilous (1944)

Hedy Case

In the same year which also saw "Gaslight", the 1944 remake of the 1940 British movie, "Experiment Perilous" was another movie about a woman basically being trapped and manipulated by a controlling, jealous husband. Now that may sound like I have already spoiled the movie but in truth I haven't because this is made very obvious early on that this is a movie about a controlling husband. What does that then mean? Well to be honest from a storyline point of view "Experiment Perilous" is solid but not great and is more of a movie of great visuals from an often imitated scene featuring exploding fish tanks to the stunning beauty of Hedy Lamarr.

On his way home by train Dr. Huntington Bailey (George Brent - The Spiral Staircase) meets the nervous Cissie Bederaux (Olive Blakeney) who chats to him about her brother and his wife who she is returning to see having spent some time in a sanatorium. A few hours after the journey Bailey hears that Cissie has died from a heart attack something he finds hard to believe and part of the reason why he agrees to meet her brother Nick (Paul Lukas - The Lady Vanishes) and his attractive wife Allida (Hedy Lamarr). On meeting Allida Bailey is blown away by her beauty but also suspicious of her timidness and the way Nick talks to her in a controlling manner. When he discovers that he has accidentally got one of Cissie's bags containing her diary he learns all about Nick and Allida and how a young journalist who took an interest in her disappeared. Believing that Nick is in fact controlling Allida and also dealing with the fact he has fallen for her Bailey must try and help her whilst also being careful of the manipulative Nick.

Paul Lukas as Nick Bederaux in Experiment Perilous (1944)

"Experiment Perilous" has a great looking opening as we watch a train going through a storm, rain cascading down the adjacent hill flooding the track and washing away the ground beneath the rails. In truth it has little to do with the movie other than introduce us to the slightly afraid Cissie who nervously chats to Dr. Bailey but it does look great and sort of sets the scene for the rest of the movie because it is a case of looks over substance. There are numerous other great looking scenes from one featuring Dr. Bailey walking as it snows to the big climax which with out giving too much away features the often imitated exploding fish tanks which sees water flooding out.

On the subject of being a movie of looks there is also Hedy Lamarr as the stunning Allida and it is impossible not to be mesmerised by her beauty. In fact she is so beautiful that it actually distracts from her performance because it is good, she gets across the fragility of Allida perfectly and that beaten down desire which is suddenly brought back to life when something triggers memories of life before she married Nick. In fact all the main performances be it George Brent as Dr. Bailey or Paul Lukas as the manipulative Nick are solid and very watchable.

But for me "Experiment Perilous" is a case of a good looking movie which doesn't quite have the story to match up to it. The trouble is that far too soon it becomes obvious what is going on with Nick basically manipulating Allida and whilst we are not immediately made aware of how dangerous and mad he is it does make it a bit of a procession. The annoying thing about this is that there is a brilliant ending but to get there you find yourself watching scenes which don't quite keep hold of your attention.

What this all boils down to is that "Experiment Perilous" is a good looking movie with director Jacques Tourneur delivering numerous beautiful looking scenes. But unfortunately the actual storyline is not up to the look and that is purely down to the fact that it makes it all too obvious too early on.