Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Bedlam is one of the costlier psychological-horror efforts from RKO producer Val (Curse of the Cat People) Lewton. Boris Karloff stars as the supervisor of the notorious 18th century British insane asylum St. Mary's of Bethlehem, better known as "Bedlam." Anna Lee, who co-stars as the feisty mistress of a fatuous government official, is appalled by the miserable treatment afforded the Bedlam inmates and insists that reforms be initiated. The crafty, politically connected Karloff responds by having Lee herself incarcerated in the institution: she is a "willful woman", and therefore must be insane. With the help of a few of the more rational patients, Lee stages a mutiny, capturing Karloff and giving him a mock trial. Though they don't truly intend to harm Karloff, he is seriously injured by one of his tormented patients. Assuming that Karloff is dead, the other inmates wall up his body in the cellar--and as the last brick is put in place, we see Karloff's eyes suddenly open! Though it has it moments of genuine terror, Bedlam is as historically accurate as possible, right down to the archaic dialogue passages. For the most part, the film is an indictment against political corruption, with Karloff (in a terrific, multi-faceted performance) alternately bullying and wheedling to save his own behind. Val Lewton (writing under the pseudonym Carlos Keith) based his film on one of the illustrations in Hogarth's "The Rake's Progress," glimpses of which are seen throughout the film as transitional devices.
asylum [mental hospital], doctor, revenge, mental-illness, buried-alive, mistress, reform [improve]