BEDLAM (1946) B/W 80m dir: Mark Robson
w/Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Billy House, Ian Wolfe
A young woman risks her life to reform the mental institutions in England in the 17th century. This is a well-made, strong horror thriller. Produced by Val Lewton, a cultured man who left his mark on the "B" grade movies he oversaw.
From Joel E. Siegel's book, Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror : "Lewton's last film for RKO, though impressive in its physical production and many of its particulars, falls somewhat short of his best work. BEDLAM attempts to combine characteristic Lewton psychological suspense with historical reconstruction (MADEMOISELLE FIFI) and social concern (YOUTH RUNS WILD), but the elements never quite manage to cohere. The film fails to achieve a unified identity or tone; it lacks both the urgency of straightforward narratives like THE BODY SNATCHER and the cold, fragmented poetry of THE SEVENTH VICTIM.
"The screenplay was inspired by the William Hogarth painting, 'Bedlam,' and other Hogarth illustrations are used throughout the fim in various ways: as inspiration for visual groupings and framings, as background for the credits, and most innovatively, as transitions between key scenes. ... If BEDLAM never quite manages to integrate its various aims and concerns, it is none the less distinguished by a number of excellences. As always, there is Lewton's love of intricate detail ... . [and] ... the performances are uniformly fine. ... With all its shortcomings, BEDLAM is a highly watchable, most enjoyable film. Perhaps it is blemished because Lewton had such high ambitions for it: at the time, he was attempting to graduate from horror movies to 'quality' productions. BEDLAM suffers from an excess of Selznick 'quality' and not enough of Lewton's customary poetry. Its failure was especially dismaying when one recalls that it turned out to be Lewton's last opportunity to make a movie as he desired."