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  Seventh Victim, The Death Is A Lonely Business
Year: 1943
Director: Mark Robson
Stars: Kim Hunter, Tom Conway, Jean Brooks, Evelyn Brent, Erford Gage, Ben Bard, Hugh Beaumont, Chef Milani, Marguerita Sylva, Elizabeth Russell
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) has been called to her school principal's office, and there is bad news for her. It seems her sister Jacqueline, who pays for her tuition, has not been heard of for some weeks and has not supplied the fees for months, which means Mary will have to get a job to enable her to continue to study there, but she is so worried about what may or may not have happened she cannot in all good faith stay on. She decides to leave and look for Jacqueline, and as she goes, the principal's assistant takes her to one side and tells her never to return, to grab this opportunity to go. But Mary might not have the choice to come back...

The Seventh Victim was one of Val Lewton's celebrated horror film productions, and for some this is his best with its oppressively bleak atmosphere that presents suicide as the only way out for sympathetic characters. It was scripted by DeWitt Bodeen and Charles O'Neal, and was one of this series which did not feature any supernatural threat, no, it was all humanity that the evil stems from here. In fact, although the plot involves devil worshippers, we're never convinced there is any devil here to worship, and for that matter no God either.

It's a lonely world that Mary enters into, and she begins by asking at Jacqueline's cosmetics business only to find that it has been sold to one of her friends who claims not to have seen her for weeks. Luckily, one of the staff who works there knows her, and suggests Mary try a restaurant called Dante's (of course), setting the girl on a trail of conspiracy that makes this one of the most paranoid films of the forties. Everywhere she goes, if there are no actual sinister types lurking then the shadows surrounding her speak of another story.

All the way through, up until the halfway point at least, we are convinced that Jacqueline is dead. Mary visits a room she has rented in a dingy apartment block (which has one of Lewton's favourite actresses, the striking-looking Elizabeth Russell, as a tuberculosis-ridden neighbour), and when the door is opened sees the room is bare except for a chair and a noose, hanging from the ceiling and in effect hanging over the heads of the characters as well. Mary meets a selection of people on her search, including Dr Louis Judd, that's right, Tom Conway playing the same role as he did in Cat People which may surprise you if you recall what happened to him in that earlier film.

Mary also meets Jacqueline's husband, Gregory (Hugh Beaumont), and a struggling poet, Jason (Erford Gage), who assist her on her journey, but the biggest surprise comes when she meets her sister (Jean Brooks), a soulful-looking type with a severe hairstyle who is determined to remain elusive because the Satanists are after her. When we meet these schemers, they turn out to be more like a supper club with a dark agenda, and weirdly pathetic in their way, but no less dangerous for all that. Creepy sequences include Mary and an opportunist who has pledged to help her standing in an unlit corridor, and later Mary on the subway seeing the opportunist's body being propped up in the carriage by two well-dressed men, but what you take away is the ending, incredibly despairing as it is, as the despicable villains get their wish, fooling themselves that driving someone to killing themselves is more noble than murder. Music by Roy Webb.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Mark Robson  (1913 - 1978)

Workmanlike Canadian director who occasionally rose above the mainstream. A former editor, he got his break directing some good quality Val Lewton horrors for RKO: The Seventh Victim, The Ghost Ship, Isle of the Dead and Bedlam. Excellent boxing drama Champion led to more high profile work: Home of the Brave, Phffft!, The Harder They Fall, Peyton Place, enjoyable Hitchcock-style thriller The Prize, Von Ryan's Express, campy Valley of the Dolls and Earthquake.

 
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