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The Seventh Victim (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on December 23, 2012

Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) leaves school to search for her sister Jacqueline (Jean Brooks).  Jacqueline is her only living family, and hasn’t made the tuition payments or been heard from in months.  Mary heads to New York and finds only mystery upon mystery.  She enlists the help of an attorney who may be more than that (Hugh Beaumont), a poet staying in the same hotel (Erford Gage), a private eye (Lou Lubin), and her sister’s psychiatrist (Tom Conway).  Together they discover Jacqueline’s involvement with a secret, sinister cult.

In my first review, I wrote “I’m tempted to rate this a little higher, but perhaps I’ll wait until a future rewatch.”  Here is that rewatch, and I will rate it higher indeed.  Far and away my favorite of the Val Lewton productions, it has a tremendous thick mood to it.  An aura of sadness, deep melancholy hangs over the entire picture.  Happiness is viewed as something distant, unreachable, theoretical… something that happens to other people.  It has one of the most solemn professions of love I’ve seen.

It’s interesting that the following year, Hunter starred in Betrayed.  In a review of that film I said “This might be the closest thing in classic film noir to a David Lynch movie.”  There are deep Lynchian qualities here as well.  Innocents thrown into a world of darkness, the dreamlike logic.  The dialogue which feels just a bit off-center.  It all seems to happen in a kind of fog.  The oddities in plotting and characterization don’t come off like flaws at all, but as constructions of a dream/nightmare world, whether deliberate or incidental.  It has a “down the rabbit hole” quality, but it maintains a somber air rather than ratcheting up in intensity.

While there isn’t a standout performance (though Hunter’s natural sweetness is as much an asset here as it is in A Matter of Life and Death) there are no duds in the cast, either.  Perhaps the mood is so off-kilter that almost any performance would work.  The team of Robson and Musuraca again delivers wonderful visuals.  Even when the images aren’t in the shadow-heavy noir style, they have a memorable quality, like the creepy subway scene or the pre-Psycho shower scene.  And Roy Webb’s score adds a great deal to the atmosphere as well.  All the pieces seem to fit in a film whose appeal is not quite fitting right.

This could well be a top 100 film for me after a third viewing.  There’s barely a moment of it that isn’t oddly fascinating.  Rating: Great (94)


2 Responses to “The Seventh Victim (rewatch)”

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