Bedlam (film)

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theatrical poster
Directed byMark Robson
Produced byVal Lewton
Written byWilliam Hogarth
(A Rake's Progress)
Val Lewton
Mark Robson
StarringBoris Karloff
Anna Lee
Billy House
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyNicholas Musuraca
Edited byLyle Boyer
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • May 10, 1946 (1946-05-10)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States

Bedlam (1946) is a film starring Boris Karloff and Anna Lee, and was the last in a series of stylish horror B films produced by Val Lewton for RKO Radio Pictures. The film was inspired by William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, and Hogarth was given a writing credit.[1][2]


Set in 1761 in London, the film focuses on events at St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum, a fictionalized version of Bethlem Royal Hospital, also known as "Bedlam." After an acquaintance of aristocrat Lord Mortimer dies in an attempt to escape from the asylum, apothecary general Master George Sims (played by Karloff, a fictionalized version of an infamous head physician at Bethlem, John Monro) appeases Mortimer by having his "loonies" put on a show for him. Mortified by the treatment of the patients, Mortimer's protégé Nell Bowen (Lee) first tries unsuccessfully to persuade Mortimer to help, then seeks the help of Whig politician John Wilkes to reform the asylum, threatening Sim's corrupt practices. Mortimer and Sims conspire to commit Nell to the asylum, where her initial fears of the fellow inmates do not sway her sympathetic commitment to improving their conditions and she tends to the comfort of her fellow inmates. Alarmed by Bowen's imminent release following legal pressure by Wilkes, Sims plans to apply his most drastic "cure" to her but his attempt is thwarted by the inmates that Nell helped. Ultimately, Sims is deposed and Nell escapes and is reunited with her Quaker friend who had counselled her through the whole process.



Theatrical release[edit]

The movie recorded a loss of $40,000.[3][4]

Home media[edit]

The film has been released on DVD by Warner Bros. as part of a double release with Isle Of The Dead[2] and as part of the Val Lewton Horror Collection, and features a commentary by film historian Tom Weaver.[5]


Initial reception[edit]

Later reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 18 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 6.4/10.[6] Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film three out of a possible four stars, commending the film's atmosphere.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011, pp 309-10[ISBN missing]
  2. ^ a b Lineberger, Rob (2005-10-24). "Review: Isle Of The Dead/Bedlam". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on 2006-01-07. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  3. ^ Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14, No 1, 1994, p. 46[ISBN missing]
  4. ^ Richard B. Jewell, Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures, Uni of California, 2016
  5. ^ Scapperotti, Dan (2008-01-08). "Out of the SHADOWS". Fangoria. Starlog Group. Archived from the original on 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ "Bedlam (1946) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  7. ^ Leonard Maltin (2015). Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-14-751682-4.

External links[edit]