The Seventh Victim (1943)

Director : Mark Robson
Starring : Kim Hunter, Jean Brooks, Tim Conway, Hugh Beaumont, Erford Gage, Isabel Jewell. USA.  1h 11m

With all respect I have to say I found this movie via a Tumblr post about lesser known film noir goth chicks and I have to say I was intrigued to know the goth chick in question was a Satanist on the run from her cult.

While the film is all about Jacqueline Gibson, a dark haired stunning femme fatal played by Jean Brooks, she spends most of the film in hiding and it’s her younger sister Mary Gibson who stars in the film, played by the cherub face Kim Hunter. Mary is called into the officer at her boarding school, her tuition hasn’t been paid for 6 months and the school cannot contact her sister, so she heads home to look for her. Finding very little trace of her she runs into some amusing characters, but things begin to get deadly serious when a plucky PI takes on the case of locating her sister and after finding a proposed location, he enters, and stumbles out of the darkness of the mysterious room and dies in front of Mary. She flees the scene and hops onto the metro, later on two men carry the dead PI onto the metro, pretending that the man is drunk. This morbid scene reminds me of those classic puzzles that turn up social media about the Russian mafia leaving their corpses on tubes holding a person up pretending they are drunk or stoned.. This film is such a forerunner.

While still perusing her sister Mary discovers a boyfriend who turns out to be much more, a psychologist who has a lot of inside information on her sister and her whereabouts and a star crossed emotive poet. She also unveils the satanic cult in which her sister has crossed, and while they openly admit that they harm none, if anyone tries to out them, even to their psychiatrist they will find ways to kill them, peaceful or not. But the darkest secret that she stumbles upon, is that her sister renting a room that has remained locked for years, Mary manages to persuade the landlord to open the door and all that is left in the room is a chair and noose, her sister is obsessed with suicide and knowing that she can take her own life makes her happy.

There’s lot of connections between the Seventh Victim and Cat People, so much so that names had to be changed to un-connect the duo. It starts off as mystery but dips in an out of this pacifist satanic cult, showing them to just be a group of well to do citizens who have just happened to worship the devil, not quite like the cults in the later movie adventures such as The Devil Rides out or the malicious . Some of the themes are incredibly dark, with the main character’s nihilistic views and obsession with death, and with her raven black hair she’s a certain Bettie Page Goth Goddess, who is one of the strangest femme fatal’s I’ve ever encountered. Despite her lust for suicide she refuses to kill herself when the cult instruct her to do so. There’s a creepy emotive scene near the end, where a depressed woman who is almost ready to die herself encounters Jacqueline who is about to enter her suicide room and they have a curious conversation the go their separate ways, it’s a beautiful and astonishing scene showing the dichotomy of life and really peaks this fascinating ending.

The young sister Mary along with her endless helpers, from the Italian couple who run a café, the psychologist who turns out to be a bit of Van Helsing quoting bible scripture at the Satanist, and the lovely poet, all manage to traverse the dangerous streets of Greenwich Village in order to locate arcane secrets. At times it feels a lot like Rosemary’s baby, and at other times it’s a gothic film noir.. (can you get any darker than that?)

For a director able debut it’s quite incredible, Mark Robson worked as an editor on Citizen Kane (1941) and the earlier Cat People (1942) and in the same year as this epic he also helped with I walked with a Zombie (1943) so before his tragic death in 1978 he had a wealth of psychological horror and classics under his belt.

While there is a terrible sinister backstory and the film is incredibly light hearted at times, showing that there is a life of happiness for anyone who’s looking for it, Jaqueline eventually notes the errrors of her ways, searching for and wanting too much and eventually everyone has to pay the price. The only downside is the lack of cultish behaviour and mysticism but that’s only a minor aspect with this fascinating film with huge undercurrents of lesbianism and death.

Rating 7/10

R: The Night of the Demon (1957), Cat People (1942)
L: Satanists on Film, Suicidal movie characters
A: How the cinematic perception of Satanism has changed over the years.

Post Discussion to come

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