Psycho and The Seventh Victim: How Hitchcock and Lewton Compare

Some time back I watched a Val Lewton film “The Seventh Victim.” Aside from it being one of the more unusual and fascinating- not to mention disturbing- films I’ve seen in a while, there were scenes in it which reminded me of something. And after a little thought, I realized what that something was: Hitchcock’s landmark film, “Psycho.”

For starters, this movie involves a young woman’s search for her missing sister.  This search pulls her away from a “normal” existence, and throws her into a different world which is at turns menacing, confusing, romantic, and potentially lethal.  The journey she embarks on will change her life forever- if it doesn’t end it first.

Similarities

A woman searching for her sister in an unfamiliar town.

She enlists the aid of her sister’s romantic “acquaintance.”

Beaumont and Gavin’s relationship to Jacklin and Marion (respectively), is not clear to the sisters.

The women are victims of “predators.”

The pursuers enter a “world’ different from their own, where they are not only unwelcome but also at great risk.

The world they enter is becoming dysfunctional, directly due to the intrusion by strangers, and the attempted escape by those who have intruded.

A detective dies of stab wounds while searching for the sister.

An intruder menaces a woman in a shower; the shadow upon the curtain is chilling.

There are rooms that hide horrible or unsettling secrets.

The sister inspects personal effects of the victim: a handheld mirror, hairbrush, etc.

Knife displays.

A menacing house is prominent

Police are ineffective, to the point of exclusion, in the search or resolution of the conflict.

Stairs are prominent.

Differences

An undercurrent of spirituality: The references to the heavens (the constellation Orion), made by the poet.

The good vs. evil theme, most strikingly portrayed in a scene where Dr. Judd and the poet face off with the Satanists. The duo has gone to the cult’s lair in their search for Jacklin.  As the two are about to leave, the head of the cult proclaims his allegiance to, and belief in, the majesty of Satanic power.  He asks what proof the doctor or the poet have of the existence of God or his goodness.  The two respond  by quoting from the scriptures, and from personal experience.

Instead of one antagonist (Norman Bates), there is a whole group of them.

The 7th victim’s death is self-inflicted.

The film has some interesting details thrown in:

  • The number of Jacklin’s apartment is 7.
  • She is the 7th victim of the cult
  • Wordplay used as foreshadowing: Judd tells the sister that he prefers the left side, because it is sinister.

 

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