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The HFA’s Val Lewton-athon continues — and, arguably, peaks — with THE SEVENTH VICTIM, a Robson-directed vehicle that doesn’t merely follow the better-known CAT PEOPLE chronologically — it reprises the role of its creepy-clever-cad psychiatrist, Dr. Judd (still played by Tom Conway), who once again pounds the pseudo-Manhattan stage-sets with an imperiousness that, while perfectly appropriate to mid-century psychoanalysis, is completely out of its depth with respect to the vertiginous destinies assigned to Lewton’s troubled (anti)heroines. Here Judd either serves or exploits a young woman who has dropped off the city’s radar. Sought after by her provincial younger sister, Mary, death-obsessed Jacqueline (a bobbed, Bettie Paige-esque siren whom we are repeatedly exhorted to consider beautiful) has drifted into the orbit of a sinister (by definition, however unfair that is) Satanic cult, populated by arch-swells and their curdling consorts, which may have met its match in the motley coalition of poets, psychiatrists, and star-addled lovers with which the film conspires to contest it. But good vs. evil be damned: everyone here is a thanatologist, and death is the ultimate attraction. The safety-net for every choose-your-own-adventure is the room in which you keep your noose, and there are only so many endings available.

3/29 – 7:15pm
71 minutes

Harvard Film Archive
24 Quincy St.
Cambridge, MA

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