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I run to death, and death meets me as fast; and all my pleasures are like yesterday...
on 28 December 2010
In her screen debut, the charming Kim Hunter (A Matter of Life and Death, Planet of the Apes) plays a vulnerable schoolgirl who is forced to journey to New York City to find her missing older sister (Jean Brooks), an unstable, suicide-obsessed loner who, it transpires, has fallen in with a group of Satanists...
Easily one of the most downbeat and depressing thrillers to come out of Hollywood's Golden Age, The Seventh Victim was a typically doom-laden effort from producer Val Lewton, whose run of horror movies made at RKO in the early 1940s also included the better known Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man. However, even in the company of these dour mood pieces, The Seventh Victim stands out as particularly dark. The directorial debut of former editor Mark Robson, and the result of some painstaking research into a real-life coven by screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen, the movie was one of Lewton's few flops, solely due to the central theme; in the wartime US, nobody wanted to see such a humourless film based around unpleasant subject matter like mental illness and Devil-worship. When watched today, the film is still quite hard going; without the explicitly supernatural elements that marked his earlier hits, the `shapes and shadows' Lewton technique becomes even more terrifying, with one or two set-pieces in particular that are genuine shockers, whilst the fatalistic ending is guaranteed to leave viewers reeling.
There are some problems with the film, mainly related to its choppy pace; apparently slashed from around 90 minutes to just 71 minutes before it was released, the removal of so much footage was due the studio's desire to make it fit the usual B-movie format, but this left several characters' motivations unclear, and audiences somewhat confused. However, even in its surviving form, the film is worth seeing; many critics call it Lewton's masterpiece.