Di­ary Of A Mad­man

Un­der the in­flu­ence

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1963 | 15 | DVD Direc­tor: Regi­nald Le Borg Cast: Vin­cent Price, Nancy Ko­vack, Chris Warfield If ac­tors’ CVs in­flu­enced their in­sur­ance, Vin­cent Price would have had a devil of a time try­ing to get fire cover in the ’ 60s. Back then, his films for­ever seemed to end with great houses go­ing up in flames – and so it proves again here.

In adapt­ing Guy De Mau­pas­sant’s 1887 short story “The Horla”, this pe­riod hor­ror adds a great deal. It has to, as the orig­i­nal tale’s quite slight: an epis­to­lary ac­count of an anony­mous man’s un­rav­el­ling as he grad­u­ally re­alises he’s be­come sub­ject to the will of the epony­mous in­vis­i­ble en­tity. Clearly an in­flu­ence on HP Love­craft ( who sin­gled it out for praise), it’s an im­por­tant piece, but thin on in­ci­dent.

Robert E Kent’s script makes the be­dev­illed pro­tag­o­nist a mag­is­trate and also an art lover; this lat­ter de­tail makes the role well- tai­lored for Price, him­self an aes­thete and col­lec­tor. It also la­dles on the ro­man­tic melo­drama ( cue the strings), via a sub­plot where a co­quet­tish gold- digger poses for his paint­ings.

It’s pretty in­sipid fare. The Horla spends an in­or­di­nate amount of time dramatically slam­ming win­dows like a sulky teenager, and for much of the du­ra­tion the most evil act it drives its vic­tim to is crush­ing a ca­nary. Even­tu­ally the hor­ror’s ramped up, with a jar­ring gear change, as the model meets a sticky end in a grotesque se­quence surely in­spired by Roger Cor­man’s A Bucket Of Blood. But by then it’s rather too late.

Ex­tras: None. Ian Ber­ri­man

Chefs: danger­ous.

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