13 April 2008

THE SEVENTH VICTIM (Dir. Mark Robson, 1943, US) - A Val Lewton Production

Martin Scorsese's role as an academic and authority on American cinema is equally significant as his unique place as a film maker within film history. Scorsese has worked tirelessly to underline the overlooked cinematic contribution of the Hungarian immigrant, Val Lewton, who in the 1940s produced a series of low budget feature films that specialised in the horror and noir genres. Lewton's approach to genre film making was way ahead of it's time, permitting cinematographers like the notable cinematographer, Nicholas Muscaraca, to experiment with the visual language of film noir in films like Cat People and The Seventh Victim. Much of Lewton's work has attracted a large cult following and the recent release of his complete work on DVD has meant that his contribution to American cinema under the studio system can finally be acknowledged as hugely important in terms of contributing to the evolution and development of genres like the psychological thriller, the horror film and film noir. The term escoteric is usually associated with the work of Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur whom was a regular collaborator - this term appears quite appropriate for films which undoubtedly catered for niche audiences and demanded some general understanding and knowledge of the issues being tackled. This is true of The Seventh Victim which is one of the earliest Hollywood films to deal with the taboo theme of the occult, with a narrative that revolves around devil worshipping and suicide. Financial constraints meant that film makers were forced to be creative and economical, and this is why many of the films Val Lewton produced are characterised by the creation of a certain unsettling mood and tone.


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