Posted on 4/04/11 09:50 AM
At RKO studios producer Val Lewton was behind a series of chillers and horrors that redefined the genre during the 1940's. With the use of dark shadows and the power of suggestion there was a sense of not showing explicitly on screen all the action and leaving the viewer to use one's own imagination. The first was Cat People (1942) probably the best known and a good example of the style. The Seventh Victim was 4th film of 9 and an excellent entry it is...
Mary (Kim Hunter) is at a Catholic school when she finds out her older sister Jacqueline has disappeared and has stopped paying for her school fees for a few months. Concerned, Mary travels to New York to find her. There she meets an assortment of Jacqueline's ex-work colleagues, friends and aquaintances but not all are to be trusted. Teaming up with a private detective she discovers that Jacqueline is a member of a group of devil worshippers who are angry at her for giving out secrets about their cult. Mentally unstable, the cult encourage Jacqueline to commit suicide. Can Mary rescue her or will she become the seventh victim?
The unease and tension throughout the film is upheld as this atmospheric drama successfully supplies the thrills and chills at the right moments. Celebrated cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca helps add to the depressing story by painting with light and shadows that contrast with each other. If ever a film could be described as 'dark' then The Seventh Victim is surely it. Satanists, mental cruelty, suicides and murder all add up to a depressingly bleak film but one which conversely, is thoroughly entertaining. One moment that stands out is the shower scene that would have influenced Hitchcock and Psycho.
Not all the motives of certain characters and plotlines always make sense. This is due in part because The Seventh Victim was demoted to a B- film after a disagreement between Val Lewton and studio execs. This meant certain scenes were cut, making the film just 71 minutes. However, the way the film is directed (Mark Robson) still makes it highly watchable.
Kim Hunter does well as the young innocent in a big city but it is Tom Conway as Jacqueline's smarmy psyciatrist who steals the acting honours. Conway was George Sanders brother and they both have similar mannerisms. Also, Jean Brooks as the paranoid Jacqueline is an iconic figure along the lines of the Bride of Frankenstein. With her black bob of a hair-do set agaist her milk white skin and clothed in a big, dark fur coat she's a memorable figure.
Best watched late at night, this morbidly moody mystery is a treat for those who enjoy psycholgical thrillers. A classic.