Victims, Then and Now

The Seventh Victim


As long-time readers of this site already know, we’ve been watching and reviewing films from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list in approximately chronological order, and we’re currently involved in the 1940s.  Most films on this list have been reviewed to death by critics, so we try to give it a bit of a more global view, using the clearness of hindsight to aid us in the process.

Today’s film isn’t all that well known, and is RKO’s The Seventh Victim, which was billed, back in it’s day (1943), as a horror movie.  This probably isn’t surprising, as the plot centers around a Satanist cult, which, one imagines, was seriously frightening to audiences seventy years ago.  

Seventh Victim - Subway Scene

If it happened to be filmed today, it would probably be classified as a suspense flick rather than a horror movie.  And that brings up an interesting dichotomy in the way the world has evolved.

No one will be surprised to hear that moviegoing audiences are inured to issues that were taboo in the 1940s.  Violence, gore, sex and, yes, Satanism, all need to be VERY extreme to get more than a passing glance in a film.  Even images of sex have gotten so easy to find online that the days of teenagers staying up late in the hope of catching a glimpse of a breast or (wonder of wonders) some pubic hair on late-night cable are long gone – which is likely to kill the air time of Madonna’s Body of Evidence!


The strange thing is that, while this was all going on, the tolerance of society for violence and gore have gone way down.  Today, one can go to jail for the slightest physical confrontation in any part of the civilized world, even if no one is seriously hurt.  And gore?  Let me ask you something: when was the last time you slaughtered your own dinner?

Of course, some will say that violence is still happening, and it’s terrible and the world is such a violent place, and it’s getting worse, and…  breathless pause to see if anyone is listening.

And yes, there are still some wars out there, but they are extremely localized and actual fighting affects a much smaller proportion of the world’s population than ever anything in the 11th century would have (to take a random example).  In fact, things that today would make front-page news in most places, such as a brigand’s attack and murder / rape of the occupants of a caravan, were commonplace occurrences barely of note unless one of the murdered parties was a friend.

The world, despite what alarmists like to state, is not getting more violent.  Quite the contrary.

So why have movies moved so far that The Seventh Victim is more quaint than shocking (still good, just not scary)?  

Gore AND sex...

One theory says that popular media sublimated the fears of the Cold War…  but that’s a bit too much of a sociological leap for us here at CE to make (we tend towards individual interpretations of phenomena – herd patterns are best left to people who study livestock).  So we suggest that either violence has become acceptable as it touches individuals much less than it used to and is therefore fair game for a movie or that the individual need for violence is coming through our mass entertainment.

And Satanism?  Hell, reading their commandments makes them look sane compared to some.  OK, maybe not quite sane…


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  1. “when was the last time you slaughtered your own dinner?”

    Never, but I have dissected all sorts of animals. I recall dissecting fetal pigs in comparative anatomy of the chordates at university. I remember that a pair of my classmates, pre-med students, received a pig that hadn’t been properly drained. They freaked out when they cut into it and it was still full of blood.

    At the time, I wondered what kind of doctors they would make.

    My favourite animal dissection was the squid in invertebrate zoology lab. It was so clean and clear.

    Ah, memories!


      1. There’s more where that came from!

        Speaking of blood…I used to work in a newborn screening lab. The samples we tested were spots of blood on filter paper. It was supposed to be dried before being sent to the lab, but occasionally samples would come in still wet. At other times, we would get clotted samples. Cord blood was particularly nasty.

        I’ve also pipetted blood spots onto filter paper for the standard spots used for comparison.

        I can’t say that I was entirely comfortable working with blood, but I’ve done it. I don’t freak out over the sight of blood. Even so, I’m glad I’m no longer in the lab.


      2. I’ve never done it, but I think I would be ok with blood that wasn’t leaking out of a human, bagged is fine (if obviously unpleasant). Animal blood is not something that worries me overmuch – raw meat may not be the most pleasant thing to handle on the planet, but we’ve all done it.


    1. True… I just wanted to compare something to the 21st without going to the 20th, which doesn’t seem far enough away for people to separate it from current events.


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