The Seventh Victim

1943, Movie, NR, 71 mins

Review

SEVENTH VICTIM, THE
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"I runne to death and death meets me as fast/And all my pleasures are like yesterday." This epigraph from the first "Holy Sonnet" by John Donne sets the tone for what is perhaps producer Val Lewton's most personal film, and certainly one of his greatest. While very little in the way of horrific action takes place in THE SEVENTH VICTIM, the film has a haunting, lyrical, overwhelming sense of melancholy and despair to it--death is looked upon as a sweet release from the oppression of a cold, meaningless existence. Kim Hunter makes her film debut as Mary Gibson, an orphan attending a gloomy Catholic boarding school. Informed by the nuns that her older sister, Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), has disappeared and stopped sending tuition money, Mary is forced to go to New York City and find her. With the help of Jacqueline's husband, Gregory (Hugh Beaumont), Mary discovers that her sister has fallen in with a group of satanists who meet in secret and virtually control the lives of their members. No plot description can fully convey the uneasy sense of dread that pervades every frame of this film. Although Mark Robson, who made his directorial debut here, is no Jacques Tourneur, his direction is restrained and effective. Lewton ensured this by seeing to it that all the delicate nuances of mood and character were written into the screenplay. The film includes a number of unforgettable moments: the scene in which Mary persuades Jacqueline's landlord to open up her room--only to find a noose hanging from the ceiling and a chair placed beneath it, Mary watching in horror as the body of a murder victim is transported by its killers on the subway, a precursor to the shower scene in PSYCHO that must have been seen by Hitchcock, and the film's final moment--without a doubt the bleakest ending to any film ever made in Hollywood. leave a comment

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