Kino and The 3D Archive Invite You into THE MAZE

The 3D Archive and Kino Lorber Studio Classics is rescuing yet another treasure from The Paramount Archive and releasing it in its original three-dimensional glory. This time it’s the gothic mystery thriller The Maze, directed by William Cameron Menzies (Invaders from Mars[1953], who was also rather well known for his talents as production designer as well [It’s A Wonderful Life, Gone with The Wind]). Originally released July 23, 1953, The Maze was released by Allied Artists Pictures during the 3D boom of the ‘50s, promising audiences “The Deadliest Trap in the World.”

The Maze had a fascinating journey to screen. The film began its life as a short novel by Maurice Sandoz, a chemist-turned-author, and was illustrated by none other than Salvador Dali. The novel was born of the legend of Glamis (Pronounced “Glarms”) Castle, which was very popular in Europe from 1840 to sometime around 1900. The legend said that in the Glamis Castle, in the Scottish Lowlands, in a hidden room there lived hideously deformed secret heir. This legend is the driving force behind the film that starred Richard Carlson as Gerald McTeam and Veronica Hurst as his fiancé Kitty Murray.

While on vacation in Cannes, Gerald gets a letter summoning him to see his estranged uncle who has fallen ill at Glamis Castle. Before Gerald leaves he drops a few tasty bits of exposition about growing up with his eccentric uncle who would lock him in his room and night and forbid him from visiting certain areas of the castle. Gerald abruptly leaves his fiancé, and a few weeks later Kitty’s Aunt (Katherine Emery) receives a letter calling off the engagement, asking that Kitty forget about him and move on. Of course, Kitty would have no such thing and travels to find Gerald, who has become not only the master of the castle after the death of his uncle, but also appears to have substantially aged since she last saw him.

The Maze was one of those films where the big reveal happens in the final moments of the film, as Kitty spends the film’s runtime attempting to uncover the strange mystery of the castle. The Maze is a thoroughly engaging film that really does a great job building the tension until the big reveal. I don’t think it would have worked nearly as well if not for the cast led by Richard Carlson and British import Veronica Hurst giving the material way more respect than it deserves, even in the film’s sillier moments. The performances here, coupled with the film’s lush cinematography and production, really do a great job at grounding the story in some kind of reality. It’s definitely a film of its time, but it’s still a lot of fun even by today’s standards.

Personally I am a big fan of the older 3D; it tends to have a more naturalistic feel in how it uses its depth of field. The Maze sadly steers away from the more “gaggy” 3D, instead using navigating the film’s castle and maze settings to show off the film use of the technology. Menzies’ choice to go this route also helps with the overall tone of the film to keep the mood serious, to better help the buy in of the film’s third act. This approach definitely puts the pressure on Menzies to keep the visual field interesting, and he manages to keep things moving in the frame to keep the audience aware they are watching a 3D film.

Even with the recent 3D boom coming to a close, it’s great The 3D Archive is still unearthing these films for steadfast fans of the format like myself to enjoy. The restoration here on the disc delivers a clear and crisp image that looks like it could have been shot yesterday, with a commentary track hosted by film historian Tom Weaver that is as comprehensive and informative as any fan could ever want. The film’s gothic atmosphere and 3D deliver a film fans of ‘50s monster films will most definitely enjoy, with an 80 minute runtime that doesn’t over stay its welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed The Maze, and it makes me wonder just how many more hidden gems like this are out there?

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