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||IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 from 2,332 votes
||Release: 10 May 1946 (USA) /
||Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
||Director: Mark Robson,
||Stars: Anna Lee, Billy House, Boris Karloff, Elizabeth Russell, Glen Vernon, Ian Wolfe, Jason Robards Sr., Joan Newton, Leyland Hodgson, Richard Fraser
||Synopsis: Nell Bowen, the spirited protege of rich Lord Mortimer, becomes interested in the conditions of notorious St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum (Bedlam). Encouraged by the Quaker Hannay, she tries to bring support to reforming Bedlam, but the cruel Master Sims who runs it has her committed there. The inmates, however, have the last say. Written by Ken Yousten <email@example.com>
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Watch Bedlam - Alternative Versions.
"Bedlam" (RKO Radio, 1946), directed by Mark Robson and produced by Val
Lewton, is an underrated gem that expertly combines factual material
and horror elements.
In a story set in 18th century London at St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum
(BEDLAM) for the insane, Boris Karloff stars as Master George Sims, the
head warden of the asylum who specializes with his own techniques of
sadistic therapy. Then comes Nell Bowen (Anna Lee), a nurse who comes
the asylum only to learn of the cruel treatments of the inmates, and
because she plans to expose these inadequate conditions, Sims, feeling
she knows too much for her own good, and with the help of the committee
board, has her declared insane confined within the walls of a hellish
nightmare for which she is surrounded by screaming patients and the
watching of waving hands churning in and out between the bars from the
cells through dark corridors. At first she sits there motionless,
trying to ignore what's happening around her, but Miss Bowen decides
not give in to Sims' methods by going completely insane herself.
Eventually this strong-willed woman tries to work along with the
patients to improve conditions and their self esteem, with the hope
that she will eventually see release. But when Sims learns of what she
is trying to do, he comes up with some other plans to break her.
As with most previous Val Lewton's psychological horror films, "Bedlam"
starts off slowly, and with the help of an intelligent and worthwhile
script, the story then moves briskly until its harrowing climax. There
are no real scenes of suffering presented on screen but the story
suggests sufficient misery, which is what makes the Lewton films so
different from other films of its day. Aside from Paramount's rarely
seen 1935 production of "Private Worlds" starring Claudette Colbert,
"Bedlam" predates the even more popular but then controversial drama
about mental institutions, "The Snake Pit" (20th Century-Fox, 1948)
which starred Olivia De Havilland, but until then, little has been
dealt on screen with such controversial topics.
Although Karloff offers one of his best on screen menacing
characterizations, with Anna Lee coming a close second in one of her
finer movie roles up to that time, the supporting cast of
not-too-familiar names, which consists of Billy House (Lord Mortimer);
Richard Fraser (William Hannay); Jason Robards Sr. (Oliver Todd, an
alcoholic sent to the institution to sober up); and Elizabeth Russell
(a regular in several Val Lewton productions), should not go unnoticed.
Veteran character TV actress Ellen Corby can also be seen briefly as
one of the asylum patients known as The Queen of Antichokes!
Val Lewton, whose unique style of story telling and horror, is said to
have made little impression with critics in the 1940s, but seeing these
movies today, they are considered rediscovered masterpieces. Of the
nine psychological thrillers Lewton produced at RKO, "The Body
Snatcher" (1945), which also starred Karloff, is regarded the finest of
them all. The occasionally underrated "Bedlam" not only became
Karloff's third collaboration with Lewton, but the end of the line for
them both in the RKO horror unit. As for Lewton, he moved on to produce
films for other studios, but none recaptured his psychological mood and
style. Thanks to frequent revivals on television and later video
cassette distributions, the Lewton thrillers made from 1942 to 1946,
can be seen, studied and appreciated by each new generation of horror
On the plus side, from what I can observe, "Bedlam" appears accurate in
every detail in sets, costumes and background. "Bedlam," which formerly
played on cable's American Movie Classics for many years, can be seen
occasionally on Turner Classic Movies, especially during the month of
October in honor of Halloween, but it's worth seeing on all counts,
especially during the cold, gloomy rainy afternoon or evening to set
the mood of fear. What's even more harrowing is that since this movie
is based on fact, it makes one wonder how many people have been sent to
an nonreturnable horror who didn't need to be there? (***)
Tags for Bedlam Full Movie
, Billy House
, Boris Karloff
, Elizabeth Russell
, Glen Vernon
, Ian Wolfe
, Jason Robards Sr.
, Joan Newton
, Leyland Hodgson
, Richard Fraser
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