The Maze – USA, 1953 – overview and reviews

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‘How much horror can you take?’

The Maze is a 1953 American horror feature film directed by William Cameron Menzies (Invaders from Mars) from a screenplay written by Daniel B. Ullman [as Dan Ullman], based on a novel by Maurice Sandoz. The movie stars Richard Carlson, Veronica Hurst, Katherine Emery, Michael Pate  and Hillary Brooke.

This was the second 3-D film designed and directed by William Cameron Menzies, who was known as a director with a very “dimensional” style (e.g. many shots are focused in layers). This was his final film as production designer and director.

The movie was distributed by Allied Artists Pictures.

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Plot [spoiler warning]:

A Scotsman named Gerald MacTeam (Carlson) abruptly breaks off his engagement to pretty Kitty (Veronica Hurst) after receiving word of his uncle’s death. He inherits a mysterious castle in the Scottish highlands and moves there to live with the castle servants.

However, Kitty refuses to accept the broken engagement and travels with her aunt (Katherine Emery) to the castle. When they arrive, they discover that Gerald has suddenly aged and his manner has changed significantly.

After a series of mysterious events occur in both the castle and the hedge maze outside, they invite a group of friends, including a doctor, to the castle in the hopes that they can help Gerald with whatever ails him. Although the friends are equally concerned by Gerald’s behaviour, they are at a loss to its cause.

One night, Kitty and her aunt steal a key to their bedroom door (which is always locked from the outside) and sneak out into the mysterious maze…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“This isn’t essential viewing for horror fans, but is good for 3-D fans and friends of the fifties. It’s pace is slow-moving compared to today, but I’ve always thought that a slower editing pace and steady tracking shots are the best use of 3D. The slow tracking shots moving slowly around the maze are extremely effective.” Black Hole Reviews

” … a marvelous bit of gothic nonsense that satisfies in spite of the comically absurd punchline. It’s part horror film, part mystery, and part fairytale, and somehow it all combines to make a distinctive, suspenseful film.” B-Movie Madness

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“Most commenters observe that the film is let down by the ending, and it’s true that the ultimate revelation is a bit goofy in its low-budget execution and also doesn’t seem to hold together logically, suddenly flipping, as it does, our sense of who the true victim has been all this time. Nonetheless, The Maze succeeds as a model of suspenseful, eerie atmosphere and surprisingly crisp depiction of human relationships.” Randy Byers, Dreamland Cafe

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Cast and characters:

  • Richard Carlson … Gerald MacTeam
  • Veronica Hurst … Kitty Murray
  • Katherine Emery … Edith Murray
  • Michael Pate … William
  • John Dodsworth … Doctor Bert Dilling
  • Hillary Brooke … Peggy Lord
  • Stanley Fraser … Robert
  • Lilian Bond … Margaret Dilling (as Lillian Bond)
  • Owen McGiveney … Simon
  • Robin Hughes … Richard Roblar
  • Jack Chefe … Waiter (uncredited)
  • Clyde Cook … Cab Driver (uncredited)
  • Bess Flowers … Dance Extra in Party Sequence (uncredited)
  • Kenner G. Kemp … Dance Extra in Party Sequence (uncredited)
  • Harold Miller … Dance Extra at Engagement Party (uncredited)
  • Bert Stevens … Nightclub Table Extra (uncredited)

Some image credits: Vagebond’s Movie Screen Shots

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