In the dark religious film The Seventh Commandment Ted Mathews (Jonathan Kidd) has just graduated from business college and he sets off with his girlfriend Terry (Lyn Statten) to celebrate. They are involved in a collision with another car. Ted is relatively unhurt and is relieved to find that Terry has survived as well, but when he goes to take a look at the other car it’s obvious that the other driver hasn’t fared so well. Ted takes one look at him and realises he’s dead. He returns to his own car to find that Terry is dead as well. At this point Ted’s head starts to spin and he suddenly develops amnesia. He wanders away from the scene of the accident and goes to sleep under a tree. The next day he is found by a travelling revivalist preacher, the Reverend Noah Turnbull (Frank Arvidson). Noah assures him that when God wants him to remember his previous life he will. They join together in prayer and Ted undergoes a sudden conversion…
This very low budget movie was directed by Irvin Berwick from a screenplay by Berwick and Jack Kevan. Their film careers were less than distinguished and certainly The Seventh Commandment is no cinematic masterpiece. Berwick’s directing style isn’t going to sweep you off your feet. On the other hand this is an interesting movie, combining a rather clichéd idea (amnesia) with a more unusual religious theme. This may in fact be the most obvious example of the very rare sub-genre of religious noir. Redemption is certainly a concept that is not uncommon in films noirs, but spiritual salvation is pretty rare. Fritz Lang’s You Only Live Once and John Boulting’s Brighton Rock are the only other noirs I can think of that confront such issues, being respectively the products of a Catholic director and a Catholic writer. It’s a movie that could have played out as merely a combination of film noir and exploitation movie but The Seventh Commandment does appear to take its religious themes seriously.
The acting is not as bad as you’d expect in an early 60s low-budget movie. Lyn Statten pulls out all the stops in making Terry one of the most vicious of femmes fatales and at the same time one of the most pathetic. She’s not a great actress but she’s giving it all she’s got. And Jonathan Kidd as Tad/Ted does project a certain presence, enough to make him fairly convincing as a charismatic preacher. John Harmon projects an extraordinary degree of sheer spiteful malice. The performances might be on the cartoonish side but they’re effective enough.
If you like your noir with a touch of weirdness then the dark religious film The Seventh Commandment is worth a look.