The beautiful young protege of a wealthy aristocrat attempts to thwart the cruelties of a sadistic asylum director, when she finds herself thrown in amongst the loonies for her attempted reforms. Boris Karloff returns in his final collaboration with producer Val Lewton as the cultured but iron-fisted warder, offering two distinct personalities on screen as he feigns adoration for the social elite while dropping his toothy smile for a menacing scowl as he enters his torture chamber. His opposition arrives in the form of the sharp-tongued Nell Bowen, played by the strong and charismatic Anna Lee in one of her better performances. As is the case with most other Lewton productions, the horror is minimized and mostly suggestive, with very little violence portrayed on screen. In its place, the film provides ample character development and thoughtful (if not wordy) dialogue in a grim melodrama based around the unfortunate true events of England's harshest mental institutions. BEDLAM is a good effort build on strong performances, but while it does make for a striking social commentary on the historic atrocities against the mentally ill, it is not likely to appeal to the larger mainstream Horror audience.
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