The Seventh Victim (1943)

For such a civilized time in movie making, it's always fun to see a film like "The Seventh Victim" which throws caution to the wind and makes a tale that remains very controversial and very unsettling.
The movie begins at a girl's school where Mary Gibson (the blank-faced Kim Hunter) is told that her tuition hasn't been paid for six months. Her richer sister, Jacqueline (who owns a cosmetic supply chain) has been missing for some time. The evil-like baroness of the school tells Mary that she can stay if she wants and work as a teacher for the younger kids; but Mary wants to track down her sister to see if anything bad has happened.
"The Seventh Victim" seems like a movie that is supposed to make you feel inspired to live everyday as if its your last (a bell that Hollywood hasn't stopped ringing since films were created); yet that's not exactly what it is.
Instead, the film is precisely and totally a horror film that has genuinely suspenseful parts in between its odd dialogue and blank acting. Maybe director Mark Robson is mocking the stereotypical genre of romance...then again, maybe he just wanted to make a creepy movie.
Somewhat paralleling the works of Dante, the movie's religious and macabre imagery and metaphors are almost worth watching the movie for.
Mary travels back to New York where she finds no trace of her sister and no one who can help her. She is always five steps behind Jacqueline, having just missed her flesh and blood by a few days. Her search leads her to a restaurant (which borrows its name from Dante as well) where the owners tell her of a woman who rented one of their rooms. Convinced that this woman was her sister, Mary forces them to open the mystery tenant's room to find only a chair and a noose in the room. It's at this point where the viewer is somewhat shocked at the discovery...these things one doesn't just see in a 1940s movie (note to self: make that a LOTR meme).
Even more shocking is the following scenes which tell us that Jacqueline has some fascination with always being able to take her own life. Her suicide tendencies were actually pacified by the noose in her room, because it gave her a constant way to get out of life. To say it was rare to find such philosophy in a work like this is a huge understatement.
The problem with "The Seventh Victim" doesn't lie in the ideas that it gives us, because we certainly have more than enough to digest. Instead, the problem is very simple: Kim Hunter. As Mary, she is rarely expressive enough to carry the movie. In modern day terms, she's more reminiscent of Kristen Stewart than anyone else.
Still, there is enough substance to the film to carry it without her. She is unromantic when she is supposed to be in love, she is platonic in anger, and emotional during scenes that mean nothing. It's really bad.
However, the film is astonishing. It predates modern horror movies, most notably "Rosemary's Baby".
It is a work in studying characters and at only over an hour in length it makes you stop and weigh the influence of the film. It is forceful and perhaps a tad manipulative, yet that doesn't really matter when you count the final scene in its full and unfiltered glory. A masterpiece ending for an unsteady work.
You must watch the movie for the last five minutes.

Score: ★★★

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