Article #438 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing day: 5-27-2002
Posting day: 10-20-2002
A protege of Lord Mortimer takes it upon herself to reform conditions in a local insane asylum, only to find herself committed there for her troubles.
I’ve always been a little bit disappointed with this Val Lewton movie; the ambiguity that I found quite prevalent in his other movies is noticeably absent here. In fact, I find it hard to think of it as a horror movie at all, though it does contain some definite horror elements (some of the asylum scenes and the basic concept of madness that is inherent to the subject matter). It is a historical drama that uses the maltreatment of the mentally ill to explore any number of issues; corruption, political expediency, the flightiness and unpredictability of public figures, and ultimately the nature of morality. This may be the only one of Lewton’s horror films where he really allows himself a hero; Anna Lee’s character is flawed and has to grow into the role, but that is ultimately what she becomes. Her performance, as well as an excellent performance by Boris Karloff as Master Sims, are definite plusses. Actually, I enjoyed this movie much more this time than I have previously, because I found it to be very rich in what it had to say, and it’s ability to look at the world as a very complex place indeed. It helps to just not think of it as a horror film at all.