The Seventh Victim (1943)
Editor's Note: This review was written well before the Val Lewton Horror Collection became available on DVD.
Okay... could somebody please explain to me why great films like I Walked With a Zombie, The Body Snatcher, and The Seventh Victim aren't in video circulation, while The Devil Bat and The Ape can be picked up fairly cheaply? This just bothers me...
Anyway, end of unavailability rant. I'm just annoyed because I had to do some serious searching to locate this movie. While the end result was worth it, I believe that The Seventh Victim should be enjoyed by all fans of classic horror, for its spectacular direction, cast, and script, not to mention the guiding hand of producer Val Lewton.
Mary (Kim Hunter) is a young woman who leaves her posh private school to go searching for her missing sister Jacqueline. In New York, she meets a group of parties who are similarly interested, either because they knew the disappeared woman, or because the want to know Mary. Dr. Louis Judd (Tom Conway) holds the key to Jacqueline's location, but he's only protecting her from something much worse: a conspiracy of devil-worshippers with a vendetta, who are sworn both to non-violence and to kill Jacqueline, an odd contradiction which they get around in a most sadistic manner.
One of the most effective thrillers I have ever seen. Director Robson knows how to build suspense, create a sense of foreboding, and generally draw the audience in, moment by tense moment. Of particular note is the sequence where Mary and the detective break into the building at night. Notice how the shadows play across the set, their faces, everything. Notice how with each tick of the clock, the atmosphere grows tighter, the suspense grows. It's an admirable sequence with a great ending.
The cast is Lewton's usual hardworking bunch of B-actors who should be doing A work. Conway (as usual) is more than excellent, carrying (dare I say stealing) every scene he's in. Kim Hunter bothered me a little, but that has more to do with the script...it never quite pins down Mary's age, and so some of the romance in the movie seems...well, odd. The rest of the actors are excellent. Each one does their job marvelously, perfectly, suiting the role they are in exactly.
The point here is that if you love Val Lewton's work (not a hard thing to do), then The Seventh Victim is possibly the best example of it available (though The Body Snatcher runs a VERY close second). Every element (except for the aforementioned age thing) works just as it should, even better than it needs to. Buy this movie, if you can find it.