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Bedlam

Screening on Film
Directed by Mark Robson.
With Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Billy House.
US, 1946, 35mm, black & white, 80 min.
Print source: George Eastman House

Narrowly inspired by William Hogarth’s painting of the same name, Bedlam’s caustic depiction of 18th century London is suffused with Lewton’s distaste for studio politicking. In spite of a larger-than-usual budget, the film doubles down on its identification with the spurned and cast-out (Lewton went as far as outfitting Anna Lee in one of Vivien Leigh’s backup dresses from Gone with the Wind, a picture he advised against when working for David O. Selznick). Boris Karloff plays Master Simms, a bourgeoisie who connives to climb the social ladder by amusing the landed gentry with abject displays of the asylum inmates under his control. “I would not want to be a dull man forever in need of entertainment,” Lee’s actress snaps at her patron, a harmless yet blithely amoral lord standing in for innumerable studio executives. Completed only days after V-J Day, Bedlam proved Lewton’s final RKO production.

Part of program

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The Glitter of Putrescence. Val Lewton at RKO

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