Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Seventh Victim

l'll say again, even though I've never known anybody to agree with me, that The Seventh Victim is the finest of Val Lewton's pictures.

I say this because its sense of evil is pervasive. And because the evil is suggested rather than demonstrated until the very end. Even the first act, which is essentially a detective story, concludes on a darkening note despite the setting of the cosmetics business for which the sister worked. There's a decadence to the business itself.

I don't want to spoil the story so I'll say that what fascinates me on third and fourth viewing is how subtly the theme is played out--the young woman hoping against hope that the evil she suspects doesn't exist--and the forces against her who have dedicated their lives to discovering evil and feeding on it. And then the reverse--it is the young woman who understand real evil and the Diabolists who are pathetic pretenders.

Kim Stanley had a troubled career. For me she was too smitten with The Method. But this was apparently before acting school got hold of her. She does excellent work here.

I like enjoy and admire all the Lewton pictures and watch them over and over. But this one has stayed with me as none of the others have.

Here are a few notes from IMBD:

The story as filmed:

Mary Gibson, a naive orphan, goes to Manhattan to find her missing sister Jacqueline. Her investigation leads her to Jacqueline's secret husband, and also to a strange cult of Diabolists who are also hunting Jacqueline. Written by Ken Yousten {kyousten@bev.net}

The story that wasn't filmed:

The original story for the film (outlined by DeWitt Bodeen) was to be about an orphaned heroine caught in a web of murder against a background of the Signal Hills oil wells. If she didn't find out the killer's identity in time, she would become his seventh victim. Producer Val Lewton wanted the story to go in a different direction and called in a second writer to help reshape it.

4 comments:

Todd Mason said...

I would say that it is a film that improves with repeated viewings...it seemed a bit rushed on my first viewing. And I'm not sure I've seen Kim Stanley in much else, but definitely like her here.

Anonymous said...

Ed: Great comment,but one little thing:it was Kim Hunter, not Kim Stanley. KH was an RKO contractee During the Lewton period, and I think the only problems she had were during the red scare. All the best. Mike Doran

TM said...

Well, that's why Stanley's name seemed wrong...but a look at Hunter's IMDb listings suggests why someone not focused on her career might well have a vague impression of her...aside from PLANET OF THE APES, not a film that features her recognizably, and such older films as A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, her career has been rich in television one-offs and guest shots.

Anonymous said...

The final shot of the film is seared into my mind. It's immensely powerful and never fails to leave me stunned and enthralled.

Tom Pic