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A black and white Halloween: Classic suspense films
Gaslight
Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in "Gaslight." - photo by Deseret News archives

When choosing what to watch this Halloween season, consider broadening your horizons to include the black-and-white era. You won’t find zombies around the corner, but there’s plenty of classic suspense with these five Halloween-worthy flicks from the 1940s. Movies are listed by year, not by greatness. All the films listed are appropriate for those 12 and older.

‘Gaslight’

Paula has been trying for years to forget her aunt’s murder. Her plan to lose herself in her music is thwarted when she falls in love with Gregory. After their marriage, he convinces her to take up residence in the home of her deceased aunt. While there, Paula starts to wonder if she is going insane. Lights flicker, valuables are lost and Paula seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Fortunately, a Scotland Yard inspector realizes the truth of what is really happening in time to save Paula’s sanity and her life.

Charles Boyer’s magnificent performance as Gregory embodies “gas lighting” in this thrilling film, which also stars Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten.

Released in 1944, “Gaslight“ can be seen on Turner Classic Movies Oct. 26 at 2:15 a.m. It can also be viewed on Netflix and Vudu.

‘Murder, My Sweet’

Philip Marlow is a street-savvy private eye, but lately he’s been low on cash. When an ex-con hires him to locate a past girlfriend, Marlow takes the case. However, the more he discovers, the more enmeshed he becomes in a mystery involving thievery, deception and murder. Marlow is knocked out, drugged, held hostage and set up as a murderer, but he tenaciously refuses to give up the case. Along the way, he meets and falls for a beautiful woman. Now he only needs to figure out whether she can be trusted.

Starring Dick Powell and Anne Shirley, this 1944 crime drama will keep you guessing until the very end.

Murder, My Sweet“ can be viewed via Amazon instant, Google Play and Vudu.

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

At the prime of his life, Dorian Gray poses for his portrait. As he admires the painting, he wishes the portrait would age instead of himself. Soon, he realizes his wish has come true. However, not only does the portrait age, but it also reveals Dorian’s multiplying transgressions and sinful lifestyle.

As the years pass, those who know Dorian express awe over his ageless appearance. Eventually Dorian locks the painting away, fearful someone will discover his secret. While Dorian continues to look like the innocent young man who posed for the painting, the portrait reveals his true character is more monster than human.

The Picture of Dorian Gray“ stars Hurd Hatfield, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury. This 1945 fantasy/horror flick can be seen on Netflix, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play.

‘The Strange Love of Martha Ivers’

Teenage Martha hates her dictatorial aunt and has made several attempts to run away. Due to the rich woman’s influence, she is continually brought back, much to her chagrin. But one night, after being returned from a failed escape attempt, Martha’s fate changes forever: She unintentionally kills the woman who has made her life miserable.

Years later, Martha enjoys what others view as a successful life. As her aunt’s heiress, she has inherited her money and prestige. However, there is one other who knows her secret, and that secret becomes both of their undoing.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers“ stars Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas. This 1946 drama can be seen on Amazon Instant, Netflix, iTunes, Google Play and Hulu.

‘Sorry, Wrong Number’

Bedridden Leona answers the phone to hear two men plotting a murder. She calls the police, but when she is unable to give them concrete clues as to the identity of either the victim or the perpetrators, she is ignored. Alone in her New York home, she becomes frantic in her efforts to locate her husband through a series of telephone calls.

While she fails to find her husband, she inadvertently pieces together a part of her husband’s life she has never been aware of before. And, as the night progresses, she realizes the target of the nefarious murder plot is herself.

Sorry, Wrong Number“ stars Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. This 1948 thriller can be enjoyed on Amazon Instant or Netflix.

(Elizabeth Reid has bachelor’s degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She blogs at agoodreid.blogspot.com.)