FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 23, 2014

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Finally got around to watching The Seventh Victim (1943) and man, it's terrific. Maybe you knew that, as it's generally regarded as one of the best horror films of all time. That's me, always late to the party! Well, hey, at least I still show up. Now point me to the snack table, and on the way we can talk about this super boss Val Lewton production.

  • The Seventh Victim boasts three of my very favorite themes in both cinema and life: Satanism, urban isolation, and ennui!
  • Even if you're some kind of freak who thinks this movie stinks, you cannot deny the effect it's had on the genre: its influence is obvious in horror classics Psycho and Rosemary's Baby.
  • Speaking of an influence on Psycho, the shower scene in this film is full of dread and menace like nobody's business. NOBODY'S I SAY
  • There are some gay undertones in the Frances/Jacqueline relationship, no? It certainly seemed like it could be read that way. Then again, I think most things could be read that way, so.
  • Speaking of Jacqueline, let's talk about her white hot, outrĂ© Cleopatra wig! It's perhaps the most startling thing in the movie. I looked up actress Jean Brooks because once you see that wig, why wouldn't you? The results were not as I'd hoped, to put it mildly: a few years of floundering outside the studio system until an untimely death of malnutrition caused by alcoholism. I was reminded of Gail Russell, whose equally sad tale I discovered after watching the superior ghost story The Uninvited (1944). It's always shocking when "I wonder if _______ is still around?" and some internetting deliver a depressing life story that's in complete contrast to the perceived glamour of Hollywood's golden era.
  • I understand there were a few scenes scrapped during production, and I'd really like to see 'em because this shit wraps up in about ten seconds, and some ideas come out of left field in the final moments.
  • Man, what a delightful downer of an ending!
I think perhaps the greatest lesson in all of this is that you really can't go wrong with a Val Lewton horror production. Also, that I love snacks...but unless this is your first time here, this is not surprising.


Antaeus Feldspar said...

Oooh, I may have to check this out. For some reason I thought The Seventh Victim was a movie in the "aggressive tontine" genre, where there's a group of diverse people who all have reasons to eliminate all the others and so everyone's going around trying to kill everyone else and not be killed themselves. But Val Lewton + Satanism? Relevant to my interests!

CashBailey said...

I loves the Val Lewton.

There was a great documentary series from the UK written and hosted by SHERLOCK'S Mark Gattis where he gets some amusing interview footage with John Carpenter trashing Val Lewton.

Carpy goes on about how over-rated Lewton is, and how he should have shown the monsters rather than conceal and imply them and cheat the audience.

I love John Carpenter but I can't stand by him on this one.

BlacknickSculpture said...

I've never heard of the Seventh Victim. I'll have to check it out!

S. Choule said...

You probably already know this, but Brooks co-stars in another Val Lewton production, the very much underrated The Leopard Man. She doesn't cut as deep into the brain there as she does in The Seventh Victim (I love how she's often the go-to image for most articles about this film -- she may be a supporting player, but like Marion Crane or Harry Lime, her presence dominates the entire proceedings) but the film has one of the most viscerally frightening sequences in it I've ever seen.

MDG14450 said...

Interesting Carpenter would say that--his line when he was working on The Fog was that he wanted to make a movie in Lewton's style, keeping the horror off-screen and implied throughout. He may have even said that the ghosts at the end were forced on him by the studio.

Stacie Ponder said...

It's definitely weird coming from Carpenter. His early films seem to be descended from the "less is more" kind of thinking.

Chris Otto said...

Was not aware of this movie! Now it goes on The List. Seems equally absorbing and absolutely improbable for the era in which it was made. How did this get through the Production Code?? ... As I was reading your description of the demises of Jean Brooks and Gail Russell, I thought, sadly, that in the year 2060, somebody is going to watch Brokeback Mountain or Capote and think, "Wow, that's quite a performance by Heath Ledger/Philip Seymour Hoffman. I wonder what else he went on to do?" Google Glass 3.0 search and BAM! G-Damn drugs. (sorry for the tangent)

Stacie Ponder said...

Whoa, you're absolutely right. Never thought of things that way.

As to how this got around's kind of remarkable, really. Probably the only thing that allowed it to do so is Lewton's famous "imply it!" storytelling.

highwayknees said...

Hi Stacey!
You are to be congratulated for finding your way to the hidden gem that is: THE SEVENTH VICTIM! It's such a bizarre and spooky tale told in a very unique sort of way. I think that it's subtle sense of doom thoughout might be what puts some viewers off and keeps it from getting the love it deserves.
And you are right Im sure about those lesbian undertones. They seem pretty pronounced in fact. And how bout that spooky scene where the sister/Kim Hunter and the little rat faced dude go to investigate that dark office/lab place? Jeez Louise! Talk about tense.
The ending is so bleak I just love it! I'm begginning to think it is my favorite Lewton-along with the weird Curse of the Cat People.

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks for the comment!

Oh man, the office scene and the shower scene were my two favorites. So simple, but super tense!