The Maze

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

May 10, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Personally, I'm always delighted to watch any old 3D movie in 2D. The absurdity of workng in a scene with acrobats or a juggler or something, just so something gets jutted in the general direction of the screen and "jumps right out" at the audience, never stops being funny to me. Mind, this is not the only appealing thing about The Maze, William Cameron Menzies' 1953 suspense/horror slow-boiler (besides, it's worth noting that the disc allows you to watch the film in real 3D!), but it's there. More noteworthy, I suppose, is that the film has atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife; alternatively, you could cut it with a totally left-field ending that is extremely silly and poorly explained. The latter is the path Menzies chose, gifting his audience a completely bizarre payoff that does little to justify the extended setup. It's highly entertaining and all, but what the fuck?

Still, it's the journey, man, not the destination, and The Maze is pretty fair travelin'. Veronica Hurst is great fun as the story's plucky heroine Kitty, who drags her aunt (Katherine Emery) to a castle in the Scottish highlands after she gets word from her betrothed Gerald (Richard Carlson) that, upon inheriting said castle from his uncle, he's decided to stay there and abruptly break off their engagement. When they arrive at the castle, Kitty and her aunt find that Gerald has aged rapidly, and is acting far more guarded and strange than the gregarious fellow they had previously known. The castle servants are even colder and more mysterious. Kitty, however, refuses to accept this new reality, and pulls out all the stops to get the old Gerald back, even as she becomes disconcerted by some mysterious happenings in the titular hedge maze.

A silly setup, but not one that even begins to hint at its far sillier ending (and yes, I know that it's silly to keep dodging spoilers for a film that's older than my dad, but trust me, it's better if you're surprised… don't look it up first!). For most of the film, Menzies sells the suspense with aplomb, using his signature "dimensional" style of set design and camera work (which I'm sure is doubly impressive in 3D, though I didn't have the chance to check). The film is rich in visual layers and ingenious lighting; the acting is mannered and some of the dialogue rather stiff, but mostly delivered relatively convincingly. Pacing is a bit of an issue, but at 88 minutes, you can probably survive it.

The Maze isn't an essential watch, really, but it's a fun film, and it's restored beautifully in this edition. There's plenty in it for film nerds to appreciate, and fans of gonzo camp will at least get a solid payoff at the end. Casual viewers, though, can probably sit this out, or at least spend the middle section making kettle corn before they come back for the ending. Don't forget the 3D glasses!


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