Friday, 28 November 2014

THE MAZE











d. William Cameron Menzies  (1953)

Sir Gerald MacTeam (Richard Carlson) doesn’t have any trace of a Scottish (or even recognisably British) accent, even though he is heir to a Baronetcy and a large, gloomy castle in the Highlands. When he receives an urgent telegram (is there any other type?) he drops everything (including his pretty fiancée)to hurry  home – and doesn’t come back. After a few weeks, his wife in waiting and her Aunt decide to investigate, only to find themselves embroiled in a terrifying world of shadows, secrets and slime.

You can tell that The Maze was originally shown in 3D by the sheer amount of things that get shoved towards the viewer: the animate (a lithe lady dancer); the inanimate (a telegram), and the somewhere in-between (a rubber bat on a piece of string). Like the rest of the film, however, this is all window dressing for the genuinely surprising finale, in which an enormous frog looms into three dimensional view before throwing itself out of a window.
This shock climax is concluded with a long scene in which the Sir Gerald tells us what the hell just happened. I’m not going to give it away but it involves Teratology. At first his explanation sounds absolutely ridiculous but, because he perseveres with it, his story ultimately achieves some degree of pathos, if not verisimilitude. It’s still absolutely ridiculous, though*.  

* Director William Cameron Menzies isn't at his best here, unfortunately: perhaps he was still thinking about his other 3D film of 1953, the extraordinary anti-Communist fever dream Invaders From Mars.

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