About Val Lewton

"His philosophy, in addition to scaring the wits out of people, was that he had a responsibility to the millions who saw our pictures. He aimed at more than mere exploitable crook shows, and wanted their impact to result from legitimate psychological conflicts. Lewton's pictures were cheaply made, but not cheap"

Director Robet Wise, from an interview in Films in Review, January 1963 (as quoted in Banzak's Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career.

Vladimir Ivan Leventon was born in Russian in 1904, and immigrated with his family in 1909 to the United States. He worked as a journalist and wrote novels before becoming involved with films. Incidentally, his Aunt Alla Nazimova was a popular Silent Film Star of the twenties. Lewton served as David O. Selznick's story editor for years before being put in charge of RKO's special horror "B-unit" assembled to cash in on that trend then in films. He produced the taut and moody film "Cat People" in 1942 for $134,000 which then went on to earn nearly $4 million. Not particularly interested in horror films, Lewton consistently pushed the bounds of what that genre allowed, introducing strong psychological elements, excellent writing, and withheld the special effects and gore. Eventually Lewton was able to have his way into making an authentic period piece, the Boris Karloff vehicle "Bedlam" which tells the story of St. Mary's asylum for the mentally ill in 17th Century London. Lewton died of a heart attack in 1951.


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