Director: Mark Robson
So the 10th anniversary edition of the 1001 Movies book came out recently, and there were only two Lewton productions on the list; Zombie was one of the older titles knocked off in the reshuffle. This puzzled me, and a couple of other commentators too; how come Zombie got bumped but this didn’t? And, let’s be honest, I stand by that, I think the other film should’ve been retained in place of this if one had to go… but, in saying that, I also must say I liked The Seventh Victim a lot more on this revisit than I think I did when I first (and last) saw it quite a lot of years ago. Rosenbaum called it his favourite horror film, and makes the interesting speculation that the film was something of a victim of classical director-based auteurism, whereby Jacques Tourneur—who RKO had promoted to their A productions—was considered more notable than Mark Robson, who had been the editor on Tourneur’s films and whose directorial career seems to be generally considered minor. (According to the DVD commentary, RKO wanted to promote Lewton to A productions as well as Tourneur, but refused to let him assign the untried Robson to direct them, so he stayed at B level.) Anyway, as noted elsewhere, Lewton was the real auteur of these films in any case, although Robson remembered the lessons he’d learned from cutting Tourneur’s films and he was surrounded by effective help from his cast (which is great) and crew (Nicholas Musuraca behind the camera again, pulling out all the film noir stops), and he succeeds in infusing the whole thing with a quite remarkable air of menace. I’ve seen the film criticised for the weakness of the Palladist cult, that we’re supposed to find them evil just because they are devil-worshippers even though their own avowed rules leave them hamstrung about actually doing anything evil, but the whole business where they try to convince Jacqueline to kill herself (since they can’t kill her themselves) is still kind of weird and disturbing. Lewton and his films often seem to be described as death-obsessed, but The Seventh Victim is *really* haunted by it; it must’ve seemed as strange as hell in 1943. Enjoyed this much more than I expected.