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  Maze, The The Curse Of Craven Castle
Year: 1953
Director: William Cameron Menzies
Stars: Richard Carlson, Veronica Hurst, Katherine Emery, Michael Pate, John Dodsworth, Hillary Booke, Stanley Fraser, Lilian Bond, Owen McGiveney, Robin Hughes
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Someone has died at Craven Castle, located in the Scottish Highlands, and the few servants there, led by William (Michael Pate) know what they must do - contact the next in line for the baronet position. He happens to be American Gerald MacTeam (Richard Carlson) who is spending time on the French Riviera with his new fiancée Kitty (Veronica Hurst) and her aunt Edith (Katherine Emery). They are having a whale of a time as they sun themselves, enjoy the nightlife and look forward to the marriage, but when Gerald receives the telegram, he has to leave...

Whereupon he breaks off all contact with Kitty, only sending a letter to Aunt Edith by way of explanation, but that only serves to bring up more questions. This was the last feature to be directed by William Cameron Menzies, one of the greatest art designers of classic, Golden Age Hollywood, but he had a liking for helming his own films as well as decorating other people's, though the results in his case were often rather eccentric. His best known works would be the British sci-fi epic Things to Come and the eerie alien attack movie Invaders from Mars, but some have a soft spot for this, his horror movie.

It was originally made in 3-D, which explains why occasionally the cast are subjected to things - and people - flinging themselves at the camera, but not as much as you would expect, as if Menzies wasn't really interested in the possibilities other than simple gimmickry, which some would argue was the main reason for the optical effect in the first place. What was more interesting than that was the ending where we found out the big secret of Craven, and what a secret it was, often bringing on gales of laughter from those watching, though they would have to admit it would be the first time they'd ever seen a movie using that finale.

It was based around the tales of Glamis Castle, a real life mystery (or possibly myth) which claimed a relative of the Queen Mother had lived for hundreds of years thanks to his physical abnormality, supposedly making him look like a very large egg or barrel with a face. That wasn't enough for the filmmakers here, however, and they adapted this intriguing yarn into something, if it were possible, even more outrageous, and it helps for the overall effect if you're not aware of what it is before you watch it, thanks to a very long build-up to the revelation which would drag all the more if you knew what you were waiting for, patiently or otherwise. The fact that something so otherwise grave and sober-minded resolved itself like this made it even more amusing.

When Gerald tells the auntie that he will never see Kitty again, the young woman is shocked, but refuses to let him go, and contrives to get up to Scotland and visit the castle to get to the bottom of the puzzle. What she finds there is a rundown and imposing structure - and that's just Gerald, as he has aged twenty years in the interim, not to mention given up his former good humour. Still Kitty won't take no for an answer (nothing if not persistent, this girl), and manages to stay on for a while, using Edith's head cold as an excuse so she can investigate what it is that has made her lover so chilly and unfriendly and obviously stressed. Could it be something to do with the strange dragging sounds outside the locked bedroom door? And why is there a procession to the maze of the title in the grounds outside? Is there some kind of family curse on the Clan MacTeam? Although aiming for spooky and menacing, mostly this was rather dry - but that ending, hoo boy. Music by Marlin Skiles.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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