The Seventh Victim (1943) **

 This particular Val Lewton film intrigues me. It isn't really on the tips of Lewton fans' tongues a lot, nor is it really mentioned a whole lot when 40s "noir horror" fans talk about the more recognized icons such as "Cat People" or "I Walked with a Zombie". I had only watched The Seventh Victim (1943) once before in October, and I was left sort of chewing the fat a bit on how I felt about it. Kim Hunter, a pretty, young, soft-faced, meek-voiced Mary Gibson, leaving her repertory school to find her sister (who hadn't paid for her school in six months), who seems to be missing. So you start with a missing sister story and Mary finds a psychiatrist, Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), and her own doctor, Louis Judd (Tom Conway, who doesn't really show up until almost halfway through the film). Also, Mary finds good people such as cafe owners with rooms and a poet, Jason (Erford Gage; who died as a casualty of war two years later), so her life does change once she leaves the sheltered repertory school. But Mary's sister is quite a morose, doom-faced Jean Brooks (as Jacqueline), always talking about dying, seemingly desperate to find something of meaning in her life. Jacqueline connects with wealthy New York elites who worship the devil, but their group's ideology and lifestyle fails to excite or encourage anything that makes her fact, this connection has the opposite effect, leaving her miserable. Mary really never quite gets too deeply involved in "rescuing" Jacqueline. She connects with folks who try to help Jacqueline, and because Mary is such a sweetheart, those who know her sister just want to help.

The conclusion, as Jacqueline is allowed to leave the elite cult after not drinking poison and being held by them in a room when a friend interferes with the attempted "forced suicide", really goes into classic Lewton territory as she tries to avoid danger during a dark night route to her apartment, almost stabbed by one of the devil worship members when he grabs her arm. It reminded me of Margo leaving her place of economy for a long walk home through an empty town as we remember a leopard is possibly on the loose in "The Leopard Man (1943) or Jane Randolph leaving for home as Simone Simon might be lurking in the dark somewhere before a bus frightens her out of the silence in "Cat People" (1942). Jacqueline actually breaks from the guy with the switchblade knife when theater actors/actresses leave their stage building, even though we remember that the devil worship elites tell her that she is only free at the moment.

It sort of ends with another "dying woman" who just decides to live her life to the fullest instead of just remaining in her room despondent. Jacqueline, on the other hand, seems destined to continue her descent into further misery. I hope she found happiness after death was right there ready to overtake her.

The elites who worship the devil have significant roles in New York society. They are the doctors, the business owners, and the restaurateurs with a lot of success and money. Their anonymity is important to them, so if you try to remove yourself from them and speak of their membership to anyone that might hurt their standing within the city. Jacqueline wants to leave them, but when she talks openly to her eventual husband, Gregory, that is a big no-no that eventually has them planning to kill her. That is what Judd and Gregory (and the poet) hope to stop if possible. The ending has the poet and doctor confronting the elites about who they worship and how they feel about them. The response of the elites is fascinating...they do so because they see no harm in it, and I'm sure folks today would agree.


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