Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Who’s In It: Kim Hunter (When Strangers Marry, A Streetcar Named DesirePlanet of the Apes), Jean Brooks (The Leopard Man), and Tom Conway (Tarzan's Secret Treasure, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie).

What It’s About: A young woman (Hunter) falls in love with her brother-in-law (Conway) while investigating the disappearance of her sister (Brooks).

How It Is: As I expect from Val Lewton movies now, The Seventh Victim is very stylish (I mean, Jean Brooks' bangs alone!) and begins with a cool mystery. Unfortunately, it has more in common with The Leopard Man than Cat People or Isle of the Dead. The mystery is solved too early and after that the film just becomes about the fallout from it. Which, like in The Leopard Man, isn't a bad take in itself. I like that the movie is interested not just in the mystery, but also in the way that it affects its characters. But in this case, if affects Mary (Hunter) by forcing her into a romance with her brother-in-law, Louis (Conway). Not only is that creepy and inappropriate considering that they're both looking for their sister and wife, but at no point do I ever actually believe that either character is really falling for the other one. I don't know if that's lack of chemistry or underwritten characters or both, but it doesn't work.

It's also a big problem that the reality of Jacqueline (Brooks) doesn't equal the build-up. The woman that everyone's looking for in the first half of the movie sounds cool, confident, and a little mysterious. But that's not the reality of the frightened and severely depressed person we meet in the second half. There's a great discussion to be had about the masks we put on to cover our insecurities, but the movie never really goes there. It's too interested in that dumb romance that Jacqueline's in the way of.

I feel like I should at least mention the Satanic cult that the movie's supposed to be about (and that gives the film its name), but it's a lame, toothless group that (except for one, memorable sequence) doesn't have much effect on the main characters. It's as disappointing as the rest of the movie.

Rating: 2 out of 5 poisoned punches


Caffeinated Joe said...

Well, that's too bad. Seems like it has all the elements to be good, just not well done or put together, in the end.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Val Lewton's movies are so stylish that I often forget that they were B-Pictures and that there was a reason many of them haven't been in high regard until the advent of home media.

Seventh Victim is easily the most disappointing for me of his filmography. The final scene of closing the door on the noose feels like there's more weight to it then we actually got to see.

And that's just assuming I remember it right at all. Other than the end all I remember is Kim Hunter asking strangers "have you seen my sister? She looks just like me!" I thought ineffective way of looking for her was planting a seed for Hunter to play dual roles of both sisters and have some M Night Shyamalan style twist about identity or duality or mix up who is who that never came.

All the more disappointing since I believe this was Lewton's last produced film.


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