The Val Lewton Collection: The 7th Victim (1943)

Synopsis:

A high school girl, Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter, A Streetcar Named Desire), has been informed that her older sister has disappeared. Mary decides to leave school and search for her sister in New York City, where she discovers that her sister’s disappearance is connected to a secret sect.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“One must have courage to really live in the world.”

Dazzling, unbearably bleak, experimental and influential, The Seventh Victim is perhaps my favorite of the nine B-movies Val Lewton produced for RKO Pictures and one of my favorite 1940s horror movies. It has everything I like in a horror movie: an engaging storyline, interesting characters and a remarkably creepy atmosphere.

Superbly directed by editor-turned-director Mark Robson (this is his first film) from a script by DeWitt Bodeen (I Remember Mama) and Charles O’Neal, The Seventh Victim devilishly blends multiple genres — noir, horror, fantasy, etc. — to create a totally unpredictable, exciting B-picture.

The film is like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Rosemary’s BabyThe Seventh Victim works both as a coming-of-age drama and as a conspiracy horror-thriller. The teenage girl embarks on an almost surreal journey filled with strange people and even stranger situations. We follow the naive teen as she travels through a hostile city and she does a lot of growing in the process.

If you’re like me and find the idea of evil lurking beneath the facade of normalcy irresistible, you’ll enjoy this spookfest from beginning to end. The Seventh Victim gets better with repeat viewings, when you can put aside the plot and concentrate on its macabre sense of humor and extraordinarily good imagery.

Visually speaking, The Seventh Victim is just stupendous. Director Robson is today better known for his prestigious productions (Peyton Place, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, etc.), but here he exudes the enthusiasm of a boy who has received a new toy. Robson and cameraman Nicholas Musuraca (the b/w cinematography is breathtaking!) are adept at creating an atmosphere of alienation and hopelessness. It’s all very interesting, and yes, very depressing — the ending is super-downbeat.

Kim Hunter (film debut) is very effective in the lead role. Part Alice (in Wonderland), part Nancy Drew, Hunter is a likable heroine. However, the film really belongs to the wonderful supporting cast.

The standout in the cast is Jean Brooks (The Leopard Man), who plays Hunter’s older sister. With her “Cleopatra haircut,” Brooks looks like a walking sphinx and the actress conveys beautifully all the mystery associated with the mythical figure (in Greek mythology, sphinx is a creature of bad luck). The cast also includes Tom Conway (I Walked with a Zombie) as Dr. Judd and Mary Newton (Zero Hour) as the nefarious Mrs. Redi.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Seventh Victim shows producer Lewton at his most defeatist. Evil has the last laugh and that’s a rare thing to see in an old Hollywood movie. The old moral code dictated that people had to pay for their crimes, something that definitely doesn’t happen here. How did Lewton get away with that? Anyhow, The Seventh Victim anticipates countless movies: Psycho, The Wicker Man, and, of course, Rosemary’s Baby. In any event, this is a movie that I highly recommend to everyone! B&W, 71 minutes, Not Rated.

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9 responses to “The Val Lewton Collection: The 7th Victim (1943)

  1. So happy you share my high opinion of this masterpiece—also my favorite Lewton production, even over Cat People..spooky and moody, yet full of ironic humour, perfectly capturing the bohemian and supernatural rarefied air of Greenwich Village. Mrs Redi is one of the scariest villainnesses in film history…that shower scene is almost as iconic as Psycho!! This is one I pull out and watch again and again. Another great article, Mr. Binford!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would agree this is one of my favorite Lewton pictures up there with Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie. You touched on so much of what makes it great. I had also considered how reminiscent it is to Rosemary’s Baby. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. With all this high praise, I’ll definitely give it a look…if I can find the darn thing! Vudu has it to rent for $2.99, so I may go that route…or maybe I’ll try to find the Lewton double-bill DVD somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

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