Wednesday, May 1, 2019

THE MAZE (1953) Blu-ray review

The Maze (1953) d. William Cameron Menzies  (USA) (80 min)

Adapted from the novel by Maurice Sandoz by Dan Ullman (who usually trafficked in large and small screen Westerns), this highly original, if somewhat melodramatic piece features It Came from Outer Space (released the same year) star Richard Carlson as Gerald MacTeam, a fine strapping lad about to be married to his best girl Kitty Murray (Veronica Hurst). Just before the wedding, Gerry receives a telegram summoning him to his ancestral Scottish castle; he leaves… and does not return. Hurt and confused, Kitty and Aunt Edith (Katherine Emery) book passage across the ocean to find the once-handsome fiancé unwelcoming and looking 20 years older. Against his demands, the ladies plot to stick around and uncover the mystery, which involves a topiary maze on the grounds with a pond at its center where mysterious lantern lights can be seen after dark. One night, Kitty and Edith sneak down to the labyrinth and discover… ah, ah, ah… that would be telling.

Menzies, an Oscar-winning production designer (Gone with the Wind, Pride of the Yankees) who occasionally turned his hand to directing (Things to Come, Invaders from Mars), served up this unassuming little 3D gem, a strange, grotesquely fascinating Gothic mystery filled with suspense and atmosphere.

In addition to the requisite “comin’ atcha” jump scares, the titular maze is appropriately expansive and claustrophobic, while the mansion hallways seem to extend forever into the shadows, utilizing the optical gimmick to its fullest potential. The cast is perfectly adequate, with numerous familiar character faces filling out the roster. (Sharp-eyed viewers might recognized Lilian Bond from James Whale's The Old Dark House while Michael Pate, who plays Carlson's loyal manservant William, appeared in 11 features in 1953 alone!)

But the main reason this oft-forgotten chiller deserves the attention of genre fans is the simple fact that it delivers one of the most astonishing, jaw-dropping, “um, wow, didn’t see THAT coming” third-act reveals of all time. (Seriously, kids, this is right up there with Sleepaway Camp in the annals of WTF-dom.)

Do yourselves a favor, true believers – track this down via the flashy new 3D Blu-ray from Kino immediately... and DON’T READ ANYTHING ABOUT IT before you see it. Because, wow. You’ll only get one chance to see it for the first time, and you’ll be glad you saw it cold.


Interview with actress Veronica Hurst

Audio Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver

Restored three-channel stereophonic sound by Eckhard Büttner

Original 3-D Trailer

Reversible Sleeve Art

The Maze is available now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and can be ordered HERE:


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