The Seventh Victim
the seventh victim | mark robson | charles o'neal | dewitt bodeen | kim hunter | tom conway | jean brooks | drama | mystery | united states | val lewton | isabel jewell | evelyn brent | erford gage | ben bard | hugh beaumont | chef milani | marguerita sylva | joan barclay
Film: The Seventh Victim
Director: Mark Robson
Writers: Charles O’Neal and DeWitt Bodeen
Starring: Kim Hunter, Tom Conway and Jean Brooks
This is a movie that I found when looking through Letterboxd for horror from 1943. It was higher up on the list for popularity so that intrigued me. I’ll be honest, I did read a bit of the synopsis before watching this movie. When I decided on seeing this, it was just the next one up.
Synopsis: a woman in search of her missing sister uncovers a Satanic cult in New York’s Greenwich Village and finds that they could have something to do with her sibling’s random disappearance.
We start this off at a boarding school of sorts. Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) is called into the headmistress’s office to learn that the payments of her tuition are behind. Her sister, Jacqueline (Jean Brooks) has not been paying. Mary is a good student so an offer is made for her to teach a younger class to continue to attend. She declines, that is until she can figure out what happened to her sister.
She goes to New York City for answers. The first place she goes is the business that her sister ran. She meets Esther Redi (Mary Newton). Mary learns that she hasn’t seen her since Jacqueline sold her the business. This confuses Mary even more. She is given a lead to Lea’s Restaurant. It is run by an Italian couple of Giacomo (Chef Milani) and Bella Romari (Marguertia Sylva). They at first do not know her sister, but the more she describes her, they do remember her coming there.
This leads her on a trail to the room that her sister rented. She meets with Dr. Louis Judd (Tom Conway) who knows where Jacqueline is but is protecting her. There is Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont) who, as it turns out, is married to Jacqueline and is paying money to Dr. Judd to help her. Frances Fallon (Isabel Jewell) plays into things as a woman who knows Mary’s sister and might have a deep love her. Jason Hoag (Erford Gage) is a poet who wants to help Mary and will go to a club that is run by Natalie Cortez (Evelyn Brent). Greg also hired a private investigator to track down his wife in Mr. Brun (Ben Bard).
Mary sees her sister and knows she is alive. There are moving parts here and Jacqueline killed someone in a fit of rage, causing her to go into hiding. Everything must be unraveled to get of the crux of what is happening here. They also must come to terms with what they’ve done.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that to make sense of what I saw, I read the Wikipedia/Reddit page to make sure that I understood what was going on here. This is going to veer into a negative as well. This movie in my opinion came out too early and was too ambitious for what it wanted to do. It was held back by the censors of the time. It is dialogue heavy and I missed things. Reading what they were trying to do from people who paid a bit more attention helped me to piece it together. Due to that, I do have to say that I found this boring unfortunately. It didn’t help being tired and watching this at night either.
To start with a positive and going with the flow of the story, I like that we have Mary trying to piece together what happened to her sister. She hopes to find her alive. It is around the halfway mark that she sees her and then her sister disappears again. There is this cult of people who have good standing in the area and they’re Satanists. We never see them doing rituals. It feels more like me in that they’re disinterested in Christianity and society that is formed around it. They’re nihilists, with low views on humanity. I’m not far from this. It is painted negative here though. The mystery is good and keeps Mary following the clues.
I also read that there is commentary here. Frances is doing what she can to protect Jacqueline as it seems like they’re in a lesbian relationship. It doesn’t go anywhere on screen and it is implied. I did find that interesting behind that this is 80+ years old now. It is a progressive idea. It would make sense that they’ve fallen in line with a group like this for the time. This would be taboo and considered deviant. I don’t like that Jacqueline would then be cheating on her husband. I’m guessing that is why she is ‘punished’ in the end according to the Breen Code.
Sticking with the positives, let’s go to the acting. I like Hunter as our lead. She is naïve and doesn’t know the ways of the world since she is in school. I get a vibe of Film Noir here since she moves into an underworld, she isn’t ready for. This feels like a precursor to moves that would come out in the next decade. She fits this role well. Brooks is solid as well in her smaller role. She is more there to drive the story so we don’t necessarily need to see her a lot. That fit for me. Conway, Jewell, Brent, Bard and Beaumont are good as those that give information as well as hide other things to help drive the mystery as well. The rest of the cast is solid for what was needed in rounding this out.
Last then will be filmmaking. I do think that the cinematography is fine. It doesn’t do anything to necessarily stand out. I do like the seedy places that Mary and the others go, especially with the backdrop of Greenwich Village. There isn’t a lot in the way of effects and the soundtrack also works. What I do need to say was that I found this movie boring. It relies too much on telling us than showing us to make this work for me.
In conclusion, I think this is a better concept than what was executed. Part of that was probably the era that it came out. They were limited with the visuals and by censorship so they had to tell us more than just showing us. I would say that the acting is good. This is made well enough if you take out the pacing being too slow. Not a great film for what we got. This one would be ripe for a remake in my opinion. I’d only recommend it to fans of this era of cinema.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10