The Seventh Victim (1943)

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Run time: 71 min
Rating: 7.0
Genres: Drama | Horror | Mystery
Director: Mark Robson
Writers: Charles O’Neal, DeWitt Bodeen
Stars: Kim Hunter, Tom Conway, Jean Brooks
This straightforward story has Kim Hunter as a girl who searches Greenwich Village for traces of her missing sister, who’s become involved with a group of Satanists. A supernatural film noir that contains some of the most poetic (and chilling) moments ever seen in a horror film.
Release Date: 21 August 1943 (USA)

4 responses to “The Seventh Victim (1943)”

  1. tfsadmin says:

    I first saw "The Seventh Victim" on TV when I was a highschool teenager in New Jersey in 1960. I had no film knowledge, no idea of who Val Lewton was. Our local station Channel 9 had the rights to the RKO film library, and simply tossed "The Seventh Victim" into a 90-minute time-slot (a 71 minute movie interrupted every 10 minutes with a blast of commercials). Even so, seeing this movie under the worst possible circumstances, I was nonetheless hypnotized by its eerie, morbid, downright shocking handling of a fairly typical thriller premise: A young girl (the luminous Kim Hunter, in her first film) is informed by the staff of the Catholic girls’ school she attends that her sister, who lives in New York City and owns a thriving women’s fragrance emporium, has not paid her tuition bills for several months and has apparently vanished. Ms. Hunter goes to Manhattan to find her sister, whom she traces to the West Village, where the rest of the story is set. A trustful, kind-hearted innocent girl suddenly thrust into a series of increasingly frightening situations populated by a huge cast of supporting characters (and nobody is quite what meets the eye), Ms. Hunter and the viewer are sent down a series of dark alleys that eventually culminate in the most terrifying, nerve-needling, shocking ending of any film I have ever seen. "The Seventh Victim" has stayed in my mind (and haunted my dreams) ever since I first saw it. I now live in New York and have scoured the West Village for the locations of the scenes in "The Seventh Victim" (which, of course, was shot on the RKO Greenwich Village backlot–but is a perfect replica of the deceptively beautiful West Village as it appears even today: cobblestoned streets, majestic townhouses converted into brownstone apartments, cozy, family-run Italian restaurants, and the most colorful, fascinating, complex and entrancing people you’ll neet anywhere in the entire world. This mis en scene is captured perfectly in "The Seventh Victim," which another reviewer on this website so perfectly described as a series of Edward Hopper paintings brought to sinister,yet alluring, black-and-white life. I won’t go into plot details, since they have been well-covered by other IMDB reviewers. Hitchcock obviously saw this film and used its terrifying shower scene for the centerpiece of "Psycho." To this day, this modest, unpretentious, off-beat chiller remains relatively unknown (except for film-buffs), yet when I showed it to my guests at a dinner party a few years ago, they gradually fell under its creepily hypnotic spell, and, towards the end, when Ms. Hunter’s sister is stalked by an unknown killer on the darkened Village streets, a quick camera shot of the stalker reaching into his pocket and pulling out a switchblade made three of my guests scream, How "The Seventh Victim" ever got past the censors in 1943 I’ll never know I’ve read that the film had a strong lesbian undertone that drove the members of the Hays Office into cardiac arrest. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, nor do I care. The artists who made "The Seventh Victim" created a true work of art-a poetic, chilling, ravishing masterpiece–a pretentious word I’ve never applied to any other movie, but will, without hesitation, apply to the most intelligent, audacious and spellbinding movie I have ever seen.

  2. tfsadmin says:

    Spooky film about a young woman getting involved with a group of devil worshippers in NYC.

    In terms of subject matter this is ahead of its time–it was probably the first film to deal seriously with cults. The film also is the film debut of Kim Hunter (later to win an Oscar for "A Streetcar Named Desire") and has an early performance by Hugh Beaumont (later on "Father Knows Best"). Also Tom Conway was in this and two other top horror films of the 40s–"I Walked With A Zombie" and "Cat People".

    This is one of the very low-budget horror films that producer Val Lewton made for RKO in the 1940s. He was given only "B" actors to work with and zero money, but he turned in some true classics. He used darkness and shadow very effectively making some of the creepiest-looking sets on film. Also he NEVER showed anything explicitly–he always kept the monsters or violence off screen and just suggested at it. It works beautifully.

    This movie is the least known of all of them (probably because of the subject matter), but it's probably the best one. The plot and themes are handled matter-of-factly and the sets are truly eerie. The performances are all low-key perfectly fitting the script. Even the obligatory love story shoehorned in works. There's also a VERY bizarre shower sequence and a grim ending.

    Definitely worth seeing…a must for horror fans. A 10 all the way!

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    As a longtime booster of The Cat People, I tended to give the credit to its director Jacques Tourneur (later to helm Out of the Past). Seeing The Seventh Victim, also from Val Lewton’s B-movie unit at RKO, changed all that. It seems Lewton was the resident genius, cobbling together stylish horror/suspense films on shoestring budgets. The young Kim Hunter, away at a private school, learns that her tuition hasn’t been paid because her sister, owner of a beauty empire, has disappeared. She leaves school and starts scouring New York’s Greenwich Village (also the locale of much of The Cat People) only to uncover a cult of devil worshipers. Lewton’s thrillers haven’t dated the way James Whale’s, for instance, have, possibly because they depend so heavily on suggestion; the literalness of today’s "horror" films is completely alien to these suggestive, truly chilling films. The RKO B-movie unit under Lewton was also, probably, a major influence on the look of film noir, soon to become the cutting-edge aesthetic in American movies. This is as tense and satisfying a 75 minutes as you’ll find until the Mann/Alton team’s seminal noirs of a few years later.

  4. tfsadmin says:

    Many viewers of "The Seventh Victim" find the plot confusing. My comment may explain why and help clear up the matter.

    "The Seventh Victim" was intended as an A film, but four scenes that had been photographed were edited out, as "Victim" was cut to a B film’s running time of 71 minutes. This was a result of Lewton insisting that Mark Robson, who’d never directed a film before, direct this one. The studio brass didn’t want Robson and gave Lewton a choice: get rid of Robson or lose the A-picture budget. Lewton chose Robson.

    Following are the four scenes that were cut. Were they still in the film, the film’s plot would make more sense than it now does.

    Scene 1 – Gregory Ward visits Mary at the day care center where she works. In this scene, Mary admits, "It would be easier if Jacqueline were dead." At the beginning of the scene which remains in the picture–of Judd visiting Mary–Mary’s supervisor says to her, "Aren’t you the popular one? You’ve a visitor again," the last word making it clear she’d had an earlier visitor, Ward, whom we don’t see because of the cut.

    Scene 2 – Trying to discover what the Palladists have as a hold on Mary, Judd visits Mrs. Cortez, pretending to be interested in joining the group. Two points are made in this conversation between Judd and Mrs. Cortez: (a) That if good exists, evil exists, and one is free to choose. (b) Mrs. Cortez became a Palladist because, "Life has betrayed us. We’ve found that there is no heaven on earth, so we must worship evil for evil’s sake."

    Scene 3 – Judd makes a second, longer visit to Mrs. Cortez, indicating that he is ready to join the Palladists. In this conversation, Judd unintentionally reveals that Jacqueline is staying with Mary at the rooming house. This lets us know how the Palladists were able to trace Jacqueline to Mary’s room in order to kidnap her. In the truncated print, viewers haven’t a clue as to how the Palladists found Jacqueline.

    Scene 4 – A final scene, which followed Jacqueline’s suicide. Mary, Gregory, and Jason meet at the Dante restaurant. Gregory and Mary go off together, leaving Jason standing before the restaurant’s mural of Dante and Beatrice, making clear his failure as an artist and lover; he says, "I am alive, yet every hope I had is dead. Death can be good. Death can be happy. If I could speak like Cyrano…then perhaps, you might understand."

    In the British release print, Jason recites the entire Lord’s Prayer to the Palladists, while only two lines of the Prayer remain in the American print, which is the one usually shown.

    "I run to death and death meets me as fast,/And all my pleasures are like yesterday" are from Donne’s Holy Sonnet 1, lines 3 and 4. I believe the film credits them to Donne’s Holy Sonnet 7.

    Details about Lewton insisting on Robson as director and the cutting of these four scenes can be found in "Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career" by Edmund G. Bansak (McFarland) and "Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror" by Joel E. Siegel (Viking).

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