Diary of a Madman (1963)

Horror / Crime / Drama / Fantasy / Thriller


Diary of a Madman photo
After the funeral of the well-regarded French magistrate Simon Cordier several people who knew him gather to listen to a reading of his personal diary. From the grave, Cordier admits to being a murderer, driven to kill by an invisible controlling force known as the Horla. It all began when Cordier visited a condemned man in his cell on the eve of his execution. Having failed to persuade Cordier that he was possessed by the Horla, the criminal attacks the lawyer, who barely saves himself by killing his assailant. A short while later, Cordier is visited by the Horla, who shows his power by forcing him to kill his treasured pet budgerigar. Anxious that he is suffering from delusions, Cordier acts on the advice of a psychiatrist and takes up clay modelling as a hobby. The woman he hires to model for him, Odette, quickly inveigles her way into his affections, hoping to bleed him dry. Unaware that she is already a married woman, Cordier plans to take Odette as his wife. The Horla has an easy job persuading him to murder her...
© filmsdefrance.com 2014

Film Review

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Diary of a Madman gave Vincent Price yet another opportunity to indulge in his favourite pastime of revelling in over-the-top camp villainy but, saddled with a lacklustre script and directed with little in the way of flair, it struggles to earn a place alongside Price's other horror outings. The stories of Guy de Maupassant, most notably La Horla, provided the barebones of a storyline, which somehow ended up as lumbering crime melodrama which is largely bereft of horror and totally lacking in charm. The drab set design points to a derisory budget but what really lets the show down is Reginald Le Borg's stilted direction, which expunges any drama and atmosphere from the piece. Ever the committed pro, Price does his best with the material he is given and his performance is actually one of his best, but with generally feeble support from his co-stars and no help whatever from his director, his efforts are mostly wasted. Diary of a Madman had the potential to be a riveting and deeply disturbing little chiller, but starved of attention in almost every department it barely manages to be a lukewarm timewaster.
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