Val Lewton.org

Val Lewton


March 27, 2018

The Horrors of Val Lewton - mini documentary

Filmstruck is currently featuring a 5 minute Val Lewton documentary along with a set of 6 films for viewing. The documentary is partially history and partially opinion with director Joe Dante presenting the information. Visually "A Much Higher Plane: The Horrors of Val Lewton" is heavily interspersed with film clips from Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, Bedlam, The Body Snatcher, etc, as Dante describes the qualities of Lewton's movies versus the more common fare of 1940s horror.

Also, Dante's commentary places Lewton in the context of his role as a competitor against the Universal horror films, that RKO's hope was that Lewton would bring in some low cost box office success (which he did, particularly with the multi-millions brought in by Cat People).

Dante praises Lewton's style and taste (without using either word) and contrasts Lewton's approach with the expectations of a B-Movie production in Hollywood, for example particularly mentioning The Wolf Man (which Dante points out as being a well made film) as what Lewton was trying to transcend.

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A List of Val Lewton Movies

[Most recent films at top]

APACHE DRUMS 1951
Producer, co-writer
Directed by Hugo Fragonse
Running time 75 minutes

PLEASE BELIEVE ME 1950
Producer, rewrites during production
Director Norman Taurog
Running time 87 minutes

MY OWN TRUE LOVE 1948
Paramount
Producer
Directed by Compton Bennett
Running time 84 minutes

Blackbeard 1946
Pre-production work
Producer/ co-writer with Mark Robson


[Below] Lewton Journal page

Lewton journal entry 1946

Val Lewton Journal Entry

(Above, middle paragraph) "Boris Karloff came into town and had lunches with Mark and myself. He seemed pleased with the work we had done on "Blackbeard."


"It is interesting to note that while Robert Siodmak was directing Warners' The Crimson Pirate (1952), the Burt Lancaster follow-up to The Flame and the Arrow, Tourneur was working on Anne of the Indies, an account of Blackbeard the Pirate. Tourneur's film should not be confused with RKO's aborted Lewton/Robson/Karloff Blackbeard project (which, that same year, had been dusted off, rewritten, assigned to director Raoul Walsh, and released as Blackbeard the Pirate.)

[Quote above] From Edmund G. Banzak's Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career, published by McFarland & Company, 1995, page 426.

AMAZON: Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career


THE RKO VAL LEWTON FILMS

BEDLAM 1946
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Mark Robson
Started: July 18, 1945
Finish: August 17, 1945
Running time 79 minutes

THE BODY SNATCHER 1945
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Robert Wise
Started: October 25, 1944
Finish: November 17, 1944
Running time 78 minutes

ISLE OF THE DEAD 1945
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Mark Robson
Started: July 14, 1944
Suspended: July 22, 1944
Restart: December 1, 1944
Finish: December 12, 1944
Running time 71 minutes

MADEMOISELLE FIFI 1944
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Robert Wise
Started: March 23, 1944
Finish: April 22, 1944
Running time 69 minutes

YOUTH RUNS WILD 1944
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Mark Robson
Started: November 3, 1943
Finish: December 21, 1943
Running time 67 minutes

CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE 1944
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Gunther V. Fritsch,
replaced by Robert Wise
Started: August 26, 1943
Finish: October 4, 1943
Running time 70 minutes

THE GHOST SHIP 1943
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Mark Robson
Started: August 3, 1943
Finish: August 28, 1943
Running time 69 minutes

THE SEVENTH VICTIM 1943
RKO production #416
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Mark Robson
Script by Charles O'Neal and DeWitt Bodeen
Started: May 5, 1943
Finish: May 29, 1943
Negative shipped July 30, 1943
7 reels, footage 6385
Running time 70 minutes, 57 seconds
Certificate #9370

Seventh Victim: Page 33 (Script dated May 12, 1943): Dr. Judd "I'm sorry. I don't practice anymore. I find it easier to write about mental illness and leave the cure of it to others."

THE LEOPARD MAN 1943
RKO Production #407
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Started: February 9, 1943
Finish: March 8, 1943
Negative shipped April 16, 1943
7 Reels, footage 5939
Running time 66 minutes

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE 1943
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Started: October 26, 1942
Finish: November 19, 1942
Running time 68 minutes

CAT PEOPLE 1942
RKO
Producer, CO-writer
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Started: July 28, 1942
Finish: August 21, 1942
Running time 71 minutes

Other Films involving Lewton

• Jane Eyre 1940-1942
Lewton's last major story-editor work for Selznick.

• Rebecca 1940
A Hitchcock and Selznick film. Lewton is known to be responsible for having the title characters suicide segment of the story kept as it is presented versus the ending that Hitchcock & Selznick pursued. Lewton fundamentally ran interference for negotiations with the Breen office that approved film content for ratings.

• A Star is Born 1937
• The Prisoner of Zenda 1937
• Nothing Sacred 1937
• The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1938
• Young at Heart 1938
• Made for Each Other 1939
• Intermezzo 1939

Independent Selznick films. As Selznick's assistant, Lewton worked as a story editor, consultant and contributor (particularly on Nothing Sacred, according to Banzak's book).

Gone With The Wind
• Gone With The Wind 1936-1939
Lewton had been pushing Selznick for an adaptation of War and Peace, but instead was forced into production on this story which he disliked. Supposedly Lewton was the originator of the vast wounded-confederate railway depot scene, besides his usual chores for Selznick as an uncredited script editor and contributor.

• The Garden of Allah 1936
• Little Lord Flauntleroy 1936

Independent Selznick films. As Selznick's assistant, Lewton worked as a story editor, consultant and contributor.

Tale of Two Cities

• A TALE OF TWO CITIES 1935
("revolutionary sequences" with Jacques Tourneur)

Anna Karenina 1935
Reckless 1935
Vanessa: Her Love Story 1935
David Copperfield 1934

As Selznick's assistant, Lewton worked as a story editor, consultant and contributor. MGM Productions.

• Taras Bulba 1934
Unproduced Selznick film. Lewton hired to write film treatment.


More Lewton info will be added here as we are able to pull information from the older Lewtsonsite.com and the 1998 I Walked with a Zombie mini-site.