Bedlam (1946)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Horror, Thriller  |  10 May 1946 (USA)
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Nell Bowen, the spirited protege of rich Lord Mortimer, becomes interested in the conditions of notorious St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum (Bedlam). Encouraged by the Quaker Hannay, she tries... See full summary »



(suggested by The William Hogarth painting Bedlam Plate #8 "The Rake's Progress"), (screenplay) (as Carlos Keith) , 1 more credit »
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2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Billy House ...
Richard Fraser ...
Glen Vernon ...
The Gilded Boy (as Glenn Vernon)
Jason Robards Sr. ...
Oliver Todd (as Jason Robards)
Leyland Hodgson ...
That Devil Wilkes (as Leland Hodgson)
Joan Newton ...
Dorothea the Dove
Elizabeth Russell ...
Mistress Sims


Nell Bowen, the spirited protege of rich Lord Mortimer, becomes interested in the conditions of notorious St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum (Bedlam). Encouraged by the Quaker Hannay, she tries to bring support to reforming Bedlam, but the cruel Master Sims who runs it has her committed there. The inmates, however, have the last say. Written by Ken Yousten <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sensational Secrets of Infamous Mad-house EXPOSED! (1946 one-sheet poster)


Drama | Horror | Thriller


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Release Date:

10 May 1946 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Chamber of Horrors  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When Sims says to Nell "I leave you to dream of these Augean labors", he is referring to the Labors of Hercules, one of which was to cleanse the Augean stables (the stables of Augeas). See more »


In the early scene where Nell and Lord Mortimer drive by in a carriage, Nell is holding her cockatoo. Depending on the shot, the cockatoo's position and behavior change completely - in some it is sitting absolutely still, in others it is curled up preening itself. See more »


Lord Mortimer: A capital fellow, this Sims, a capital fellow.
Nell Bowen: If you ask me, M'Lord, he's a stench in the nostrils, a sewer of ugliness, and a gutter brimming with slop.
See more »


Featured in Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

Not the chiller it was advertised as but still a polished and flowing story
11 August 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Master George Sims runs the famous mental asylum Bedlam for his own personal amusement – using the inmates for his own ends (such as entertaining powerful guests) even if it means his patients die as a result; although even when they do, it matters naught to Sims or his political peers. However the arrival of Nell Bowen with Lord Mortimer exposes Sims to his first critical voice as she tries to reform the asylum to actual treat the patients rather than abuse them. Although Sims can initially control her by pushing the right political buttons on Mortimer, she continues to strive for change and Sims is forced to take further steps to protect his cruel way of life.

A strange mix of well-written dialogue with some comic touches, a solid story, an interesting debate and chiller; however I think those that are disappointed in the film tend to put to much onus on the latter rather than the former qualities. I agree that the film really does fall flat when it comes to drawing the horror and tension out Nell's imprisonment but there was enough going on to cover for it. The early stages are quite light, with flowing dialogue and some moments of wit that are enjoyable and offer a bit of menace just below the surface where I'd hoped it would gradually be revealed as more. Sadly in the second half this menace didn't come out enough and it wasn't as chilling as I would have liked. Despite this it is still interesting and is a polished film that is very engaging.

The basic story is simple enough and the debate over Sim's methods versus the "Quaker lies" is a nice addition despite it always falling on the side of Nell. The dialogue contains too many "thee's" and "thou's" for its own good but it is still nicely poetic and flows well, adding to the classy feel of the film. With these words the cast mostly stand up well to it. Karloff has fun with the words and enjoys mixing intelligent wit with his usual brand of menace. Lee is good despite being a bit too liberal for her won good, although she gets off better than Fraser, who stumbles across nearly every word he has to say and comes across about as natural as PVC. Hodgson, House and others all give good support but mostly the film is best when Karloff and Lee are on screen together.

Overall not a chiller or horror by any means, although you can see why people expect it to be. However it is still a professional period piece that flows well with the dialogue and most of the actors to produce an enjoyable story that is worth seeing.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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