Maze Runner (2014) sucks, but is The Maze (1953) any better?
They invented the term “art director” for movies by William Cameron Menzies, but The Maze (1953) fits the mold of William Castle more than anything else. This movie made plenty of money in the 50s, but today, it is a forgotten film. Menzies went from doing art design on Gone with the Wind in 1939 to directing his own movies, including this one, and boy it looks a huge drop off. It may have seemed like less of a departure in the 50s, when the William Castle gimmick film was the rage, because The Maze was filmed in 3-D and has plenty of mood.
Unlike The Maze Runner (2014), there are no annoying teens in this movie, no dangling subplots, and there is no action. There is a maze, a rubber monster, and a bunch of character interaction, which is at least something. This is not even close to comparable to The Maze Runner, but it is based on a legend, so it does have a little in common with the teen drama. Sorta.
I think it’s interesting to see literature brought to life, but fables and ghost stories are even better movie fodder. The Monster at Glamis Castle is a good old-fashioned ghost story, which inspired The Maze. If I’m wrong about that, it doesn’t really matter, as it helps me enjoy the movie a little more because I’m not a big fan of B-Movies with a rubber monster. Godzilla not included. And that one with Peter Cushing. Oh forget it.
It’s kinda amusing, because the story of Glamis Castle is more interesting than the movie itself. Glamis Castle is located in Scotland and was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth II, the current British monarch. This gives the story a modern connection, but the supernatural tales come from twice-told yarns about the Grey Lady who wanders the grounds or of Earl Beedie who wouldn’t stop playing cards, and was walled up in the secret room by The Devil, cursed to play cards forever. Wildly bored people and some ghost societies visit Glamis Castle quite often. It is now a tourist attraction.
Another legend tells that the “secret room” was not the Earl’s poker room at all, but the bedroom of Thomas Bowes-Lyons, of Queen Elizabeth’s family. He was malformed and disfigured, kept in the castle until he died. He is the “monster” everyone speaks of in connection with this Scottish landmark. Former Late, Late Show host Craig Ferguson grew up there and revisited the castle in 2012. He knows some of the legend:
The Maze uses the legends and tales surrounding the castle to sell its story. Rich heiress Kitty, played by Veronica Hurst, can’t get over her broken engagement, so she stalks her boyfriend until she finds him. Hurst is a small-time television actress, and nobody else has done anything notable either. Her uppity boyfriend Gerald is played by Richard Carlson, a B-Movie regular. He moves away and Kitty goes after him for some stupid reason, heading off to Castle Greyskull to find him. This is where the ghost stories and legends come in, hoping to create some mood for this two-room movie.
To be honest, Richard Carlson is a pretty decent actor. His dialogue is not as bad as all the other characters, who are prone to blabbing exposition to each other. Kitty and her maid go on and on about the castle’s bad reputation, boring me to tears. The only good part is the curse, where everyone has to be locked up at night or they will be lost in the castle or The Maze outside. The movie really isn’t about the maze, which is unfortunate, and it’s only there for the mood.
They ramped up the brooding atmosphere only a third of the way in, and it worked for me only in one scene where Kitty wakes up to a noise outside her door. Locked in, she can’t tell what it is, but she can see a shadow shuffling by the door, slowly dragging itself away. Creepy. She discovers a secret passage with some cardboard bats in it. William Castle would be proud. It’s pretty stupid, but then she looks out the window and sees the shuffling figure in The Maze. Now I’ve got to know who or what that was! I’m bound to be disappointed. I was.
Like Sherlock Holmes, Kitty goes about trying to figure out the castle mysteries and why Gerald is acting so strange. He wants her to leave, but she refuses, so she wanders around for a while, talks to people, gets depressed, and eventually invites her pals over to help her out.
Eventually, she discovers what is shuffling around the castle. Apparently, Gerald is desperate to help his mutated frog buddy named Sam, and didn’t want anybody to know. Now upset and depressed, Sam hobbles up the stairs like a drunkard and leaps out a window to its death. Holy cow, that was the worst ending ever.
All in all, this is probably the most disappointing movie I’ve ever seen. Now I know why all these C-List actors fill out the cast. The script is just terrible and the ending is the worst part. It seems half-inspired by William Castle and Richard Carlson tries to be a gloomy Vincent Price, but the mood is ruined by that ending. What can I say! What the heck was that!?