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A Movie A Day: Quint is admitted to BEDLAM (1946)
Split him in two! Split him in two!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today’s our final Val Lewton movie for a little bit. We still have THE LEOPARD MAN and THE BODY SNATCHER to hit before we’re done with this column, but I figured I’d squirrel away some tasty nuts for winter. BEDLAM is our picture today, directed again by Mark Robson and starring Boris Karloff as the seedy proprieter of a turn of the century insane asylum, a man almost as demented as his patients, but a lot more politically savvy. The flick was based off of a single image, William Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, Plate 8, which you can see below:

Creepy, huh? Even though Robson goes through great pains to recreate that image for one tracking shot the tone of the whole movie doesn’t exactly live up to it. I wasn’t prepared for the pomp and circumstance aspect of this movie, thinking it was going to be mainly set in the insane asylum, but honestly we only spend maybe 20% of the film in the asylum. The rest of the time we follow the rich and powerful of England and Karloff trying his best to worm his way into their good graces. His main opposition is Anna Lee’s Nell Brown, a socialite with a conscience. On the surface, she’s a pretty face, but as ugly on the inside as those she surrounds herself with. She’s full of jest and contempt for everything around her, but she really hates Karloff for some reason. Maybe it’s a protective instinct as he’s constantly trying to whittle out a spot in Lord Mortimer’s life. Mortimer (played by Billy House) is a fat, childish man that only wants to concern himself with empty jest, usually at the expense of others.

They never expressly say it, but Mortimer is pretty obviously boinking Ms. Brown, a trophy for him and a high position in society for her. So, she senses that Karloff is trying to use Mortimer the same way she is (minus the sexual undertones) and she steps up to prove that Mortimer likes her more. At first, she’s right. Karloff takes a lot in stride, including slaps to the face, never betraying his humble, good-natured appearance. But during the first couple of acts, Brown starts to betray a twinge of humanity, which, unfortunately, starts the snowball rolling downhill, getting her excised from the group and under Karloff’s care at Bedlam. To be quite honest, this movie didn’t do much for me. I wasn’t bored while watching. The cinematography and performances alone were enough to keep me interested in the story, but I never could connect with it. Anna Lee does a fine job as a woman taking charge and I really enjoyed her character’s arc (from bitch to saint, essentially). Karloff is menacing, but also more vulnerable than I expected, however that couldn’t really get me involved in the flick. I was always watching, never invested. Know what I mean? I felt me watching the story unfold if that makes any sense. That said, there are great moments. The trial of Karloff by the inmates is classic, especially the guy that keeps repeating “Split him in two” after everything the “judge” says. It’s creepy, but somehow very sweet and the inmates display more humanity than those on the other side of the bars. Final Thoughts: There’s a lot to like with this movie, but it didn’t grab me. Stylistically and performance-wise it’s not the best example of Val Lewton’s RKO work. For my tastes a little too much time was spent outside of the asylum and away from Karloff. I much prefer Sam Fuller’s SHOCK CORRIDOR if you want a good nuthouse movie and I vastly prefer ISLE OF THE DEAD if you want Karloff and Lewton together (and I hear The Body Snatcher is great, too… but we’ll get to that one next month).

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Thursday, September 4th: BLACK SABBATH (1964) Friday, September 5th: BLACK SUNDAY (1960) Saturday, September 6th: TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1972) Sunday, September 7th: TRAGIC CEREMONY (1972) Monday, September 8th: LISA AND THE DEVIL (1976) Tuesday, September 9th: BARON BLOOD (1972) Wednesday, September 10th: A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964) As you can see, we take a radical shift from Bava (our Bava-thon begins tomorrow) to comedy... look for a week following a rather famous inspector that I'm ashamed to admit I don't know very well. But we'll be fixing that in a week and I greatly look forward to it. See you folks tomorrow when we follow Karloff over to BLACK SABBATH! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead

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