|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.