Blog Directory CineVerse: Exhibit A: One of the best B-movies of all time

Exhibit A: One of the best B-movies of all time

Thursday, September 26, 2013

CineVerse peeked into the shadowy realm of the Val Lewton ouvre yesterday with its dissection of "The 7th Victim," the greatest horror movie you've never heard of. Here's what we uncovered:

·       Its tone and message are consistently bleak, morbid, unhappy and despairing. Good does not trump evil in this film, and it ends on a surprisingly depressing note. When is the last time you saw a film from Hollywood’s golden age where it ends with a major character killing herself?
o   In fact, it’s credited as being the only Hollywood film score of this era to end in a minor key, which is meant to evoke sadness, melancholy or somber reflection.
·       The expressive lighting, creative staging, interesting characters and intriguing story influenced many films noir and thrillers to come, including three major masterpieces: Otto Preminger’s Laura (released a year later; another story about a beautiful young woman is believed to be dead); Hitchcock’s Psycho (in the staging, look and mood of the shower scene); and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (another picture about a coven of Satan worshippers).
·       It has incredible set pieces and imagery, particularly Jacqueline’s fearful walk down the alley; Mary’s ride aboard the subway where she thinks she sees the dead detective; the shadowy lair of the Satanists who try to persuade Jacqueline to kill herself; and Mary being visited while showering by a shadowy threat.
·       There is a possible lesbian subtext represented by Jacqueline’s relationship with Frances—a true rarity for this period in Hollywood.
·       The Satanists are unnerving and creepy here not because they are wild, demented cultists, as you might expect devil worshippers to be, but because they look like innocuous, everyday people who have the ability to kill via the power of suggestion.
·       The film packs a lot of characters, action and plot in a very tight 72 minutes—the result is that, while the story and characters can sometimes be confusing, there are no frivolous scenes or fat to cut, and the movie rewards repeat viewers with rich, deep layers of content. Critic Glenn Erickson said: “The picture is a subtextual iceberg—90 percent of the ‘content’ is between the lines of the script…all these strange characters (are) enough for at least three movies.”
·       The characters also don’t over-emote or raise their pitch or volume expressively: instead, they speak in soft tones, which add an eerie ambience to the proceedings.
·       It was psychological horror films and thrillers like these, produced by the Val Lewton unit at RKO, that made the monster rally pictures from Universal passé and juvenile pleasures. The Lewton cycle ushered in a new era of thinking man’s fright films.

·       Death is good.
·       Looks can be deceiving.
·       Evil and fear can fester anywhere, even the most unlikeliest of places: on the subway, among a seemingly pleasant group of middle-aged, tea-drinking pacifists, on a bright, busy downtown street, and just beyond your shower curtain.
·       An symmetrical intersection of two love triangles (similar to the Palladists’ symbol and the trademarked cosmetic company logo): Jacqueline’s husband and the poet vying for Mary; and Jacqueline’s husband and the psychiatrist vying for Jacqueline.
·       Maturation into womanhood: Mary is depicted as a young, innocent and naïve girl who has yet to blossom into a woman: she’s given milk and ordered about by Jacqueline’s husband; she enters an apartment where she passes three symbols of womanhood—a lady with a baby carriage (representing motherhood); a vacuum cleaner and dust mop (representing domestic housewife); and a statue of a naked female (representing a love goddess). Mary may have to choose, like many women do, which of these three lives she wants to pursue or emulate. 

·       Bedlam
·       Peyton Place
·       Von Ryan’s Express
·       Valley of the Dolls

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