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Bedlam (1946)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir, Horror  |  10 May 1946 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 2,342 users  
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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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Title: Bedlam (1946)

Bedlam (1946) on IMDb 6.9/10

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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)


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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?


Filmed July 18-late August 17 1945, the third and last collaboration between Boris Karloff and producer Val Lewton. See more »


At the fête, the violinists are shown playing with 20th-century bows. 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

2 March 2002 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

"Bedlam" (RKO Radio, 1946), directed by Mark Robson and produced by Val Lewton, is an underrated gem that expertly combines factual material and horror elements.

In a story set in 18th century London at St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum (BEDLAM) for the insane, Boris Karloff stars as Master George Sims, the head warden of the asylum who specializes with his own techniques of sadistic therapy. Then comes Nell Bowen (Anna Lee), a nurse who comes the asylum only to learn of the cruel treatments of the inmates, and because she plans to expose these inadequate conditions, Sims, feeling she knows too much for her own good, and with the help of the committee board, has her declared insane confined within the walls of a hellish nightmare for which she is surrounded by screaming patients and the watching of waving hands churning in and out between the bars from the cells through dark corridors. At first she sits there motionless, trying to ignore what's happening around her, but Miss Bowen decides not give in to Sims' methods by going completely insane herself. Eventually this strong-willed woman tries to work along with the patients to improve conditions and their self esteem, with the hope that she will eventually see release. But when Sims learns of what she is trying to do, he comes up with some other plans to break her.

As with most previous Val Lewton's psychological horror films, "Bedlam" starts off slowly, and with the help of an intelligent and worthwhile script, the story then moves briskly until its harrowing climax. There are no real scenes of suffering presented on screen but the story suggests sufficient misery, which is what makes the Lewton films so different from other films of its day. Aside from Paramount's rarely seen 1935 production of "Private Worlds" starring Claudette Colbert, "Bedlam" predates the even more popular but then controversial drama about mental institutions, "The Snake Pit" (20th Century-Fox, 1948) which starred Olivia De Havilland, but until then, little has been dealt on screen with such tabu topics.

Although Karloff offers one of his best onscreen menacing characterizations, with Anna Lee coming a close second in one of her finer movie roles up to that time, the supporting cast of not-too-familiar names, which consists of Billy House as Lord Mortimer; Richard Fraser as William Hannay; Jason Robards Sr. as Oliver Todd, an alcoholic sent to the institution to sober up; and Elizabeth Russell (a regular in several Val Lewton productions), should not go unnoticed. Veteran character TV actress Ellen Corby can also be seen briefly as one of the asylum patients known as The Queen of Antichokes!

Val Lewton, whose unique style of story telling and horror, is said to have made little impression with critics in the 1940s, but seeing these movies today, they are considered rediscovered masterpieces, in many ways superior to the "B" horror flicks produced over at Universal where monsters are resurrected and killed off again until another sequel comes around. Of the nine psychological thrillers Lewton produced at RKO, "The Body Snatcher" (1945), which also starred Karloff, is regarded the finest of them all. The occasionally underrated "Bedlam" not only became Karloff's third collaboration with Lewton, but the end of the line for them both in the RKO horror unit. Karloff would resume his career in diversified roles on both screen and television until his death in 1969, leaving behind a lasting legacy. As for Lewton, he moved on to produce films for other studios, but none recaptured his psychological mood and style, only to die of a heart attack nearly forgotten in 1951. Thanks to frequent revivals on television and later video cassette distributions, the Lewton thrillers made from 1942 to 1946, can be seen, studied and appreciated by each new generation of horror movie enthusiasts.

On the plus side, from what I can observe, "Bedlam" appears accurate in every detail in sets, costumes and background. "Bedlam," which formerly played on cable's American Movie Classics for many years, can be seen occasionally on Turner Classic Movies, especially during the month of October in honor of Halloween. But it's worth seeing on all counts, especially during the cold, gloomy rainy afternoon or evening to set the mood of fear. What's even more harrowing is that since this movie is based on fact, it makes one wonder how many people have been sent to an unreturnable horror who didn't need to be there?

32 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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