Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Maze - 1953 Atmospheric Horror


A friend's post on Facebook recently pointed me to the 1953 film The Maze, an atmospheric thriller with a Lovecraftian feel.

The story is based on the novel of the same name by surrealist Maurice Sandoz and was directed by William Cameron Menzies. 

I liked it. There's plenty for a contemporary viewer to take exception to, but if you're in the right mindset, it's a moody and interesting little ride, originally offered in 3D.

The story focuses on Kitty Murrary played by Veronica Hurst. She and her aunt are hanging out on the Riviera with her fiancé Gerald (It Came from Outer Space's Richard Carlson). They're obviously beautiful people of the day, those people Tom Ripley would love to hang out with.

Gerald's unfortunately called home to the old family castle when his uncle dies just weeks before he wedding date. 

In one of the obvious 3D moments, a bellman thrusts a cable at Kitty a short time later. Gerald writes that he can't marry her, though he promises to always be faithful to her. Have a nice life.

Kitty's not one to let a fiancé off that easily, so with her aunt in tow, they head to the cable's return address to find Gerald greying at the temples, a sure sign he's been under a good deal of stress.

He's not particularly welcoming, but Kitty offers enough excuses for an overnight stay, then connives to get a letter out inviting friends including a physician to come for a few days. The mysterious male servants lock people into their rooms at night, but otherwise it's an interesting spot for a few days' stay.

Oh, and the castle overlooks the maze of the title, a network of hedges where at least one female servant's perished under mysterious circumstances.

Without spoiling too much the plot points toward the payoff in the third act, so the journey is in the buildup. Your enjoyment of the film will be affected by your ability to accept that style of storytelling as well as your ability to tolerate classic Doctor Who-style special effects.

If you can reset just enough, the shocks are kind of fun and creepy, and, well, again if you're in the right viewing mode, kind of shocking.

If you like atmospheric horror and you have a little patience, check it out.

Aside with mild spoilers

The novel upon which the film is based is apparently inspired by the legend of The Monster of Glamis, also inspiration for Joseph Payne Brennan's "The Horror at Chilton Castle."


Charles Gramlich said...

Don't think I've heard of this one. I should watch more of this stuff. I bet there are some good works out there.

Sidney said...

I think I'd heard of it only in passing before the FB mention, but I was glad I took time to watch.

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