Film Review: Val Lewton’s, “The Seventh Victim”

“Your sister.  Have you heard from her recently?”

As the film opens, Mary (Kim Hunter in her film debut)  is informed by the headmistress of her boarding school that her older sister, Jacqueline (Jean Brooks)  is missing, and has not paid the girl’s tuition for months.  Mary immediately travels to New York City and locates her sister’s apartment, which is devoid of all furniture, save for a single chair and a noose hanging from the ceiling.

Mary enlists the aid of three men to help her discover what happened to her sister: Jacqueline’s husband (Hugh Beaumont), a detective (Lou Lubin), and a poet (Erford Gage).  In the process, she discovers her sister was a member of a Satanic cult called the Palladists (named for an alleged real Theistic Satanic Society originating in France).  

Jacqueline, it is discovered, was also seeing a psychiatrist,  Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) about her involvement in the cult, and her suicidal tendencies.  The Satanic members are pledged to non-violence.  However, they also have a rule that states any member who speaks openly about their group, must die.  Their solution to this quandary is to kidnap Jacqueline and try to convince her to commit suicide by drinking poison.

“You’ve always talked about suicide.  About ending it all when you want to.”

“Yes,” Jacqueline responds as the game of wills begins, “when I want to.”

Val Lewton, famed RKO producer of Horror Noir, released the film in 1943, a year after his masterpiece, Cat People.  As an added bonus to Lewton fans,  Dr. Judd is the same psychiatrist who tried to treat Irena’s neurosis in the aforementioned film, and  Elizabeth Russell reprises her  small, but unforgettable role as a  mysterous cat-like woman.   The fact that Russell leaves Jacqueline’s apartment building dressed in the same  attire that she appeared wearing in Cat People’s restaurant scene, adds weight to the theory that the films take place at the same time.

The film has its flaws.   Although on the page, Mary is supposed to be sweet and determined, she comes off too dull compared to all the colorful characters around her.   There’s a totally unnecessary and unbelievable romance of the- we are going to fall in love for no other reason but because we are the leads- variety.   And a really hokey moralistic speech at the end that sounds totally tacked on.

Those are just minor flaws, however.  With its intriguing plot, enigmatic characters, and shadowy camera work-  The Seventh Victim earns an A.

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I went to see Public Enemies today. It was okay but not a great movie. However, the costumes and settings of the 30’s were well done.

  2. Hmm. I might need to see this: the plot sounds really intriguing.

  3. Hi Trisha,

    1930s fashion is one of my favorites. So elegant in an understated way.

    I’m not sure when the film opens here.

  4. Hey Amy,

    I think you’d probably like it. Not as good as Cat People, but still really cool. The whole film is up on youtube. If you do watch it, let me know what you think.

  5. now this one sounds like my cup of tea…it’s going on the list!

  6. I saw that movie! A few years back when TCM did a Val Lewton marathon. Yeah, not up there with Cat People but definitely worth a looksee if only to see Jean Brooks in that dark fur coat she seems to be always wearing.

  7. Heya Colby,

    Enjoy!

  8. Hey Jenna,

    She did look cool.

    Did you ever see the sequal to Cat People? It’s called, “Curse of the Cat People”, but despite its name it’s actually more of a dark fantasy, rather than horror.

  9. Hey Tasha,

    If it’s not revealing spoilers, could you give me an idea of what the moralistic speech at the end was about? I’m kind of curious about that.

    The idea of a supposedly non-violent group trying to persuade an errant member to commit suicide is very intriguing. I’m thinking some intense psychological warfare. Also like the visual of the empty noose hanging down from the ceiling.

  10. Sounds fascinating. I like the subject of psychological warfare. The forced romance between leads, by the way, happens far too often in way too many movies and completely ruins things. It’s annoying. Are we all expected to be so simple that we cannot enjoy a story without romance? Some of the best stories are about people who come band together to fight human issues that have nothing to do with romance.

  11. Hey Venus,

    I agree. I’m not anti-romantic, but it’s stupid when it’s thrown in just to be there. And please give me some reason why they are attracted to each other, other than, “Me Lead. You Lead. We get together.”

  12. Hey Marian,

    Unfortunately it would sort of spoil things. The film’s rather short (I think under 90 min) if you want to check it out.

  13. I had to giggle at “Me Lead. You Lead. We get together.” 🙂


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