Forgotten Horror: The Maze (1953)

There are those horror movies we all consider classics, such as Frankenstein or Dracula. Others get labeled as b-movie favorites, like The Killer Shrews or I Was a Teenage Werewolf.  Then, there are films seemingly lost or forgotten, never to grace a big screen or late movie again. Sometimes, these movies are truly stinkers best left buried. Trust me, I’m still looking for that lost 70 minutes I gave to the Petrified World. Never heard of it? Count yourself lucky. However, every now and then, a fun little flick resurfaces for a new generation to discover. Such is the case with The Maze (1953).

The Maze was originally released in 3D during the initial craze that swept theaters. Anything 3D would bring in the crowds. For director William Cameron Menzies, he was well-remembered for directing the burning of Atlanta sequence in Gone With The Wind (1939), the dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) and countless other films including Things To Come (1936) and Invaders From Mars (1953). Sadly, The Maze would be his last movie to direct prior to his death of cancer in 1956. With so many other legendary films to his credit, it’s no surprise that The Maze tends to be overlooked. At 80 minutes long, the first 75 or so are atmospheric and engaging, if not a little drawn out. However, the film utterly collapses in the last five minutes.

Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space) heads up our cast as Gerald MacTeam, a rather unconvincing heir to a Scottish castle complete with a maze made of bushes. All Scottish castles have them apparently. He’s engaged to Kitty Murray, played by Veronica Hurst, who never had that big break and certainly isn’t a household name. After Gerald receives word from that his uncle has died, he leaves to settle the estate and never comes back. Kitty wants to go to him at the castle but her aunt just tells her to forget the whole thing. She ignores the advice and the two go to the castle only to find Gerald has gone gray and tells her the engagement is off and to go away. She stays to figure out what is really happening. What follows is in true old dark house form with mysterious servants, locked bedroom doors and shuffling in the night. Even after she invites some friends to help Gerald with whatever is bothering him, he remains rude and insufferable. You have to give it to her for remaining by his side. The movie really works up to this point and leaves you guessing as to what is really going on. However, once the mystery is solved, you discover why the movie is forgotten. I won’t spoil it for you, suffice to say it really pushed even my imagination to the limits. Add to that the strange narration from Katherine Emery, who played Aunt Edith. It’s uneven and a little unsatisfying but worth checking out.

I recommend The Maze for a fun way to spend 80 minutes. Just brace yourself for the ending that leaves you wanting something that at least made a little more sense. It’s obviously not in 3D anymore and I don’t remembering any sequences that would have been good in 3D. You won’t find this on DVD and doubtful it will ever show up on TV. But it’s out there for the world to enjoy through Netflix streaming.

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2 thoughts on “Forgotten Horror: The Maze (1953)

  1. I like this film and, happily, have a VHS of it that I transferred to DVD a few months back. Wish TCM would show it so I could upgrade a bit. I think the problem with the end is that it’s a Lovecraftian idea, almost “The Shuttered Room,” but they didn’t seem entirely comfortable with it — so it comes off a bit fairy tale and silly. Still, took me by surprise, and I liked it for that. (And, of course, when they film The Shuttered Room, the “secret” became just a grungy madwoman. Sigh. At least that flick has Carol Lynley (and Oliver Reed & Gig Young for the ladies.))

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