Diary of a Madman (1963) reviews and overview

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‘The most diabolical pages ever written become the most terrifying motion picture ever created!’

Diary of a Madman is a 1963 American horror film directed by Reginald Le Borg (The Mummy’s Ghost; Weird Woman; The Black Sleep) from a screenplay written by producer Robert E. Kent. It stars Vincent Price, Nancy Kovack, and Chris Warfield.


The screenplay is an adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Le Horla” (“The Horla”), written in 1887. Robert E. Kent’s rendition is notably divergent from the source material, especially in relation to the religious and moral themes of the film, which contradict not only those of the short story, but Maupassant’s as well.

vincent price diary of a madman

Following the funeral of Simon Cordier (Price), a French magistrate and amateur sculptor, his secret diary is read out by Simon’s pastor friend to a group of people gathered around the table, Simon’s servants, and a police captain. The diary transpires that Simon has come into contact with a malevolent entity. The invisible yet corporeal being, called a horla is capable of limited psychokinesis and complete mind control.

vincent price

Cordier first interacts with the horla when he meets a prisoner whom the horla drove to commit murder. The horla possesses the inmate and attempts to kill Cordier, who in self-defense accidentally kills the man. The magistrate inherits the prisoner’s troubles as the horla and turns its hauntings toward him…


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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Although Diary isn’t considered one of actor’s better 1960s efforts, it’s a tour-de-force performance, with Price given a lot of screen time, a well-developed character and the chance to play good and evil at the same time. Price is given some tender moments, which include a scene where, possessed, he crushes his beloved pet canary, only to come out of his spell to find the poor thing dead.” DVD Drive-In

diary of a madman

“The horror elements are very cool but the scenes with supporting cast drag lifelessly. The melodrama between Kovack and Warfield is worthy of the sewer but not the big screen and everyone except for Price (and Harvey Stephens) seems bent on delivering below the watermark. Luckily, Maupassant’s storyline rises above the poor execution to capture the viewer’s attention and hold it through the final act.” Doomed Moviethon

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“Little is left of Guy de Maupassant in this jaded effort, salvaged mainly by Price’s performance and attractive sets.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

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“The ‘Horla’ effects are unsubtle at best: a green light plays over the eyes of those about to succumb to the creature’s malign influence, reminding one of the spots which were unsteadily directed at Lugosi’s pupils in Dracula (1931). The murder of Odette (Kovack) is influenced by the shower scene in Psycho, but only in the way that a pavement artist might be influenced by Pissarro.” Denis Meikle, Vincent Price: The Art of Fear

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“Moments like the scene in which Cordier attempts to kill Jeanne, but is snapped out of his trance by the sight of a cross reflected in the blade of his knife, or like any of the outwardly purposeless arguments between Cordier and Captain Rennedon over the value of criminal psychology, make it seem pretty clear that either writer Robert E. Kent or director Reginald Le Borg had some kind of axe to grind, but it’s hard to imagine what that might be.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting



Choice dialogue:

“Death is a truth, magistrate. Prove it!”

“Oh, love. A man says the word so easily.”


Cast and characters:

  • Vincent Price as Simon Cordier
  • Nancy Kovack as Odette Mallotte DuClasse
  • Chris Warfield as Paul DuClasse
  • Elaine Devry as Jeanne D’Arville
  • Ian Wolfe as Pierre, Cordier’s Butler
  • Stephen Roberts as Captain Robert Rennedon
  • Lewis Martin as Fr. Raymonde
  • Mary Adams as Louise, Cordier’s Cook
  • Joseph Ruskin as The Horla [voice]


Diary of a Madman is the second solo studio album by British heavy metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne in 1981.

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One Comment on “Diary of a Madman (1963) reviews and overview”

  1. I’ve always had a soft spot for this movie – understanding the points made in the review section. It has moments that are cleverly nasty, like the sticking-of-the-knife into the clay head, and blood leaking from it giving a ‘reveal’. And also – the end sequence, where Price booby-traps his study with kerosene to entrap and destroy The Horla. It was somehow a movie that never featured on my youthful ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’ radar, and never showed on British TV until I was an adult – but I love seeing Vince do what he did best. (The ad-mats are pretty good, too).

    Stephen Laws

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