The Seventh Victim

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This article is about the 1943 movie. For the sci-fi short story, see Seventh Victim.
The Seventh Victim
Theatrical poster
Directed by Mark Robson
Produced by Val Lewton
Written by DeWitt Bodeen
Charles O'Neal
Starring Tom Conway
Jean Brooks
Isabel Jewell
Kim Hunter
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Nicholas Musuraca
Edited by John Lockert
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • August 21, 1943 (1943-08-21)
Running time
71 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Seventh Victim is a 1943 horror and film noir starring Tom Conway, Jean Brooks, Isabel Jewell, Kim Hunter (in her first film), and Hugh Beaumont, directed by Mark Robson, and produced by Val Lewton for RKO Radio Pictures.[1] The film focuses on a young woman who stumbles upon an underground cult of devil worshippers in Greenwich Village while searching for her missing sister.

Plot summary[edit]

Mary (Kim Hunter), a young woman at Miss Highcliff's boarding school, learns that her sister Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), her only relative, has gone missing and has not paid her tuition in months. The school officials tell Mary she can only stay on if she works for the school, to pay her tuition.

Mary decides to leave school to find her sister. She returns to New York City, and finds that her sister had sold her cosmetics business eight months earlier. She locates the apartment Jacqueline was renting and finds only a chair and a noose hanging from the ceiling in the otherwise bare apartment. This only makes Mary more anxious and determined to find her.

Her investigation leads her to Jacqueline's secret husband, Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont); a failed poet, Jason Hoag (Erford Gage); and a mysterious psychiatrist, Dr. Judd (Tom Conway). Jacqueline had been Judd's patient, seeking treatment for depression stemming from her membership in a Satanic cult called the Palladists. She was lured into joining the cult by her former co-workers. Mary enlists a private detective (Lou Lubin) to help in her investigation, but he is stabbed to death under mysterious circumstances. Judd helps her locate Jacqueline, who is hiding from the cult. Ward falls in love with Mary. Jacqueline is kidnapped by the cult members and condemned to death, because their rules state that anyone who reveals the cult must die. She would be the seventh person condemned under these rules since the founding of the cult (hence the film's title).

The cult has rules against violence and decides that Jacqueline, who is suicidal, should kill herself. When she refuses, the cult members let her leave, but they send an assassin to follow her. She eludes him and returns to Mary's apartment, which is next to her own. She briefly encounters her neighbor (Elizabeth Russell), a young woman with a terminal illness. The neighbor says she’s afraid to die, but she is tired of being afraid and plans a last night out on the town. Jacqueline enters her own apartment and hangs herself. The thud of the chair falling over is heard, but the sick woman does not recognize the sound as she leaves for the evening.


Critical reputation[edit]

The Seventh Victim has been praised for the shadowy camera work by Musuraca. The film was initially criticized in reviews for having too many characters and a storyline that doesn't always make sense. (According to the film's DVD commentary, scenes containing additional story lines, some that may have made the film clearer, were cut before the film's release.) Bosley Crowther, in The New York Times review, thought that the film “might make more sense if it was run backward”.

Most controversially, the film resolves with the suicide of one of the main characters (contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the Production Code), and is possibly the only Hollywood film score of the period to end in a minor key. The story goes that Lewton was warned not to make a film with a message, and he replied that this film did have a message: "Death is good."[citation needed]

Purportedly, homosexual undercurrents run through the film, particularly in Jacqueline's character and her relationship with Frances, a cult member who is an employee at the company she formerly owned; hence, the film was featured in Turner Classic Movies Channel's Screened Out, which celebrated gay and lesbian themes in classic Hollywood cinema. If true this would be an extremely explicit film given the year it was released (1943).[2]

Tom Conway plays Dr. Judd in both The Seventh Victim and Cat People, filmed the previous year by the same producer, Val Lewton. The Judd character dies in Cat People but is re-used for The Seventh Victim, calling into question the relation of the two fictional narratives.[3]

Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has cited this as his favorite horror film. It is the only horror movie on his list of 100 favorite movies.[4]


  1. ^ The Seventh Victim at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ "Screened Out Program Guide". Turner Classic Movies.Com. June 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  3. ^ Christopher, Nicholas (2010). Somewhere in the Night. Simon and Schuster. pp. 216–218. ISBN 9781439137611. 
  4. ^ "Tales from the Vault" (posted December 10, 2004),; accessed March 11, 2014.

External links[edit]