Saturday, 29 March 2008

Bedlam (1946)

My Lal Lewton Horror Collection DVD set arrived yesterday. We decided to watch Bedlam first – it’s a movie I haven’t seen for years and my flatmate had never seen. It comes with a commentary track, and I never thought I’d say this but the commentary track is almost too informative! The movie was inspired by The Rake's Progress, a series of etchings by the 18th century British artist William Hogarth. It wasn’t just the initial idea for the film that came from Hogarth – Hogarth etchings and paintings inspired many of the individual scenes in the movie as well. The story revolves around a woman who makes an enemy of Sims, the man who ran the infamous lunatic asylum, St Mary’s of Bethlehem Hospital. Sims is played by Boris Karloff with a wonderful mix of oiliness and menace, of cruelty to those in his power and obsequiousness to those above him. It was photographed by the great Nicholas Musuraca, so (as you’d expect) it looks great. Most of the Val Lewton RKO horror films have surprisingly few supernatural elements, and this one has none at all. But Bedlam has enough human horrors to provide more than sufficient horror content. I don’t think this is one of the very best of the Lewton films, but it’s still a fine movie, and Karloff is in terrific form.

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