31 October 2014

Bedlam (1946)
79 min.
Directed by Mark Robson.
With Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Richard Fraser, Billy House, Jason Robards, Sr., Glenn Vernon, Ian Wolfe, Elizabeth Russell.
This 1946 Val Lewton thriller expertly casts Karloff as evil Master Sims, Apothecary General of St. Mary's of Bethlehem mental asylum...aka 'Bedlam.'

As manager of the 'loonies,' Sims cuts a ruthless figure as he dispenses torture, deprivation and sundry punishments to his hapless inmates. However, when witty and sharp-tongued socialite Nell Bowen (Lee) falls out of favor with her Lord benefactor, she sets out on a political path to reform the institution. But Sims has a plan to set things right (or rather, wrong): he'll have the perfectly sane young woman committed to his care at Bedlam! Soon, Nell will be a stark raving lunatic just like all the rest there...

This psychological treatise on mercy & mental care is well played, but never matches the power of others in Lewton's oeuvre.

Still, to be level-headed, few could compare to director Robson's own Seventh Victim (1943) or the superlative Isle of the Dead (1945), and as such, Bedlam is an enjoyable - if minor - entry in Lewton's always-mesmerizing dictionary of 1940s horror.

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