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Chiaroscuro
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The Seventh Victim is a 1943 film directed by Mark Robson, produced by Val Lewton.

A fresh-faced young woman named Mary (Kim Hunter, in her film debut), student at a lady's finishing school, is called into the headmistress's office. It seems that her older sister Jacqueline, Mary's only surviving relative who has been paying her tuition, hasn't sent a check in six months.

Mary goes to New York and soon discovers that no one has seen her sister for quite some time. Esther Redi, who used to manage Jacqueline's cosmetics business, reveals that Jacqueline sold the business to her before disappearing. Jacqueline's friend and former employee Frances suggests that Mary ask at an Italian restaurant where Jacqueline was a regular. Mary does so, and finds out that Jacqueline rented a room above the restaurant, but never actually stayed there. She gains entry, and finds a bare, empty room—except for a simple wooden chair, staged under a hangman's noose.

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Mary follows a lead to the office of handsome lawyer Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont, who would later be the dad on Leave It to Beaver), who was seen in Jacqueline's company. She also discovers Jacqueline's psychiatrist, Dr. Judd (Tom Conway), who claims to know where Mary is but is reluctant to reveal her whereabouts. Soon, Mary stumbles into a dark conspiracy.


Tropes:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Jacqueline and Frances are subtly coded as lesbians. Esther Redi says to Frances that "you loved her". Frances strongly opposes the group resolution to execute Jacqueline. Finally, when Jacqueline is about to drink the poisoned wine, Frances slaps it off the table and sobs about how she was happiest when she worked with Jacqueline.
  • Answer Cut: When Mary states her determination to get into the secret room at the cosmetics factory, August the detective says "I don't know if I want to go with you or not." Cut to Mary and August sneaking into the factory together.
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  • As You Know...: How do we know that Jason, who becomes one of Mary's two suitors, is a poet? We know because when he sticks his nose into Mary's problem, Jacob the restaurant owner says "You stick to your poetry. You're the poet, Jason."
  • Bookends: The John Donne quote that opens the film—"I run from death, and death meets me as fast, And all my pleasures are like yesterday"—is said again by Jacqueline in voiceover as the film cuts to The End.
  • Cat Scare: A dog scare. A frightened Jacqueline leaves her fellow cult members after they promise that eventually, they will kill her. She hears a clattering noise and whirls in fright, only to see a dog rooting through a garbage can. The guy that the Satanists actually did send to kill her appears with his Sinister Switchblade soon after.
  • Chiaroscuro: A lot of spooky, shadowy high contrast black-and-white lighting. Notable instances include the tense scene where Mary and August are sneaking around the cosmetics factory, and the scene near the end where the Satanists are gathered around Jacqueline, trying to badger her into drinking poisoned wine.
  • Continuity Nod: Tom Conway plays the same character he played in Lewton's previous film Cat People. Crosses with Continuity Snarl, seeing as how Dr. Judd dies in Cat People.
  • Cult: The Palladists, a secret Satanic cult who have declared that Jacqueline must die for revealing their secrets.
  • Driven to Suicide: Having fled to the room above the restaurant, Jacqueline runs into Mimi, who says that she's dying but she's going to go out and party while she still can. Apparently motivated by Mimi's courage in the face of death, Jacqueline goes into her room and hangs herself, and the film ends.
  • The Dying Walk: Mary suggests that August go into the secret room first, presumably because Men Are the Expendable Gender. August goes in, and there's a loud noise. August walks back into the dark hallway as Mary peppers him with questions about what he found. He doesn't say anything, but walks with an odd gait until they get into a better-lit area, where he keels over dead, stabbed in the chest.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Surprisingly it's an old lady, not the typical newspaper boy, who yells "Extra, murder, read all about it!" It's a report about Detective August's murder.
  • Hollywood Satanism: It turns out that Jacqueline was a member of a Satanic cult, the Palladists. They're actually a pretty mild example: although they worship Satan and evil, there are no human sacrifices or black masses or orgies or whatnot. They even specifically renounce violence. However, they do mandate the death penalty for whoever reveals the secrets of their cult, and they have sentenced Jacqueline to death for spilling the beans to her therapist, Dr. Judd.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Mimi, Jacqueline's neighbor in the rooms above the restaurant, is seen noisily coughing. She doesn't appear again until the end, when she greets Jacqueline and says that she's dying of tuberculosis.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Mary gets onto the subway after fleeing the cosmetics factory following August's murder. Three seemingly drunken men enter the subway car—but Mary notices that the one in the middle is August, who is dead. She hails a cop, but when she and the cop re-enter the subway car the two bad guys and dead August are gone.
  • The Last Dance: In the last scene Mimi tells Jacqueline that she's dying of TB, and she's determined to go out and have some fun while she still has the chance. At the very end Mimi, who has looked haggard and drawn in her previous appearances, leaves wearing a sparkly dress with her hair all glitzed up.
  • Love Triangle: Between pretty Mary, Mark the kindly lawyer, and Jason the sensitive poet. This despite the fact that Mark is still married to Mary's sister.
  • Religion of Evil: The Satanists, although in some ways they're oddly moral Satanists, having renounced violence. But they're definitely Satanists and they definitely worship evil.
    Brun: Who knows what is wrong or right? If I prefer to believe in Satanic majesty and power, who can deny me? What proof can you bring that good is superior to evil?
  • Shout-Out: The character of Mimi, Jacqueline's tubercular neighbor, is a Shout-Out to La Bohème.
  • Shower Scene: Mary is showering in her room when Mrs. Redi enters the bathroom and tells Mary to abandon her investigation of her sister's disappearance. The scene, where Mary is in the shower with the water running when the door opens and a silhouette appears on the other side of the curtain, is very similar to the shower scene in Psycho 17 years later.
  • The Shrink: Dr. Judd, who comes off as super-creepy and very suspicious but, as it turns out, is a good guy who was only trying to help Jacqueline.
  • Sinister Switchblade: Jacqueline eventually leaves the lair of her fellow Satanists, but is trailed by a fellow who looks scary even before he dramatically flips open a switchblade and follows her. She manages to give him the slip, only to kill herself when she gets home.

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