Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Lilith (1964)

Director and writer Robert Rossen (All the King’s MenThe Hustler) made this his last movie, as he was disillusioned with Hollywood*. What a film to go out on, a bleak and sullen meditation on mental health and lost love.

Vincent Bruce (Warren Beatty) has returned from the war, but perhaps not all of him mentally has, but he finds work at Chestnut Lodge in Rockville, Maryland. There, he seeks to help — and becomes obsessed by — an artistic patient named Lilith (Jean Seberg, an icon of the French New Wave and a woman so hounded by the FBI that she had a miscarriage and continually tried to kill herself on every anniversary of her lost child’s birthday until she succeeded).

Lilith is seduction incarnate, as though she secludes herself inside her room, her mind is at the same level as her outward appearance. Every person she encounters wants her and she also has no compunction over seducing everyone she meets, no matter their age. This begins to upset Bruce as they become lovers and he becomes more jealous of her multiple affections, even causing another patient, Stephen Evshevsky (Peter Fonda) to kill himself after he learns that the man has romantic feelings for Lilith.

That death takes Lilith back into her world of seclusion, reminding her of the moment that her life would never be the same again: her brother killed himself after she made incestuous attempts to make love to him.

With appearances by Gene Hackman, Jessica Walter and Kim Hunter, this is a movie that may haunt me for some time, much like the woman at the center of this story. It doesn’t end happily at all and actually has quite an open close, if that is an actual phrase.

I wondered what “hiara pirlu resh kavawn” written above Lilith’s bed meant. According to the book, it’s her own language and says, “If you can read this, you will know I love you.”

*Kim Hunter said, “The tensions on the set contributed to his (Rossen’s) death. I don’t think I want to talk about it.”

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Baby the Rain Must Fall, Mickey One, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

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