Blog-A-Thons Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Val Lewton Blog-a-Thon: Bedlam (1946)

This post is part of the Val Lewton blogathon hosted by Stephen aka Classic Movie Man &  Kristina of the Speakeasy blog  – see more posts at either Classic Movie Man’s Lewton page   or the Speakeasy Lewton page!

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site

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The thing that fiction loves to remind you-- poking at that dark spot in the back of your mind-- is that sanity is completely relative. Worse, it's not just relative to society, but to the circumstances. The Val Lewton produced Bedlam eagerly preys upon this fear; any one among us may find ourselves reasonable, but we can easily be ostracized or worse by the will of unfriendly circumstances.

Here we have Nell Bowen (Anna Lee), a young, beautiful woman in the employ of Lord Mortimer (Billy House), a rotund and goofy fellow who has more money than sense. Mortimer has moved his copious posterior to a new town where he is intrigued by an asylum named Bedlam. That it's run by a guy named George Sims is of no consequence, but knowing that he's played by Boris Karloff makes quite the difference.

Sims is the asylum's manager, and regularly enjoys discovering the abuses he can heap upon his prisoners. He has a few perform for Mortimer, and the bourgeoisie lap it up as he cajoles his prisoners into monologues and embarrassing recitations. One man, coated in gold paint, stutters and then dies miserably from skin asphyxiation.

Nell becomes incensed by these cruelties, and decides to manipulate Mortimer into endorsing reforms. Unfortunately for her, no one can out-snake Karloff and she finds herself robbed of all of her property save for one foul mouthed cockatoo. She uses that to insult the Lord, which gets her railroaded into the asylum. Which, believe it or not, may not be a very good place to be.