The Maze (1953) Blu-ray 3D Review: Riddle Without a Clue

The folks at Kino Lorber Studio Classics do a real Grade-A job with one really B-Grade 3D movie.
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Made during that glorious 3D movie boom of the early '50s, Monogram Pictures' The Maze is cinematic evidence that filmmakers would try just about anything to hop on the three-dimensional bus. The final film in which the legendary William Cameron Menzies (The Whip HandInvaders from Mars, Gone with the Wind) served as both director and production designer, The Maze stars another icon of '50s sci-fi and horror films ‒ the great Richard Carlson ‒ as an accent-less Scotsman who goes from a high-profile social feller with a loving fiancée to being a reclusive oddball after his equally eremitic uncle passes away.

After inheriting the family estate, a spooky spot on the map called Craven Castle, which is about as isolated from humanity as can be up in the Scottish Highlands. It also has a hedge maze on the property, which ‒ along with the castle tower ‒ remain under constant lock and key. Gerald MacTeam (Carlson) soon disappears from the lives of his devoted betrothed, Kitty (Veronica Hurst) and her auntie Edith (Katherine Emery). Puzzled, to say the least, the ladies venture up to the castle to figure out just what the heck is going on. Arriving, they discover Gerald has not only grown cold and distant, but has also aged a good 20 years in just a few weeks.

And, while this mystery opens the possibility of something truly cool coming our way, The Maze's utterly silly premise ‒ courteous Bobby Ware is Missing scribe and Mysterious Island co-screenwriter Daniel Ullman ‒ effectively erases any and all suspense well before we reach the ridiculous, anticlimactic climax. Instead, we get a (thankfully brief) 80-minute journey into vague goings-on coupled with increasingly boring small talk. Thankfully, Menzies' natural ability to add a heap of atmosphere has managed to keep the cult flick alive all of these years, as brought to life thanks to cinematographer Harry Neumann (The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters, The Wasp Woman).

Released by Allied Artists, this very '50s attempt at a Lovecraftian fairy tale also features Michael Pate as Carlson's emotionless, grey-haired butler, and The Abbott and Costello Show's one and only Hillary Brooke (The Lost Continent). Indeed, getting the chance to see Ms. Brooke in 3D is well worth the price of admission, as is the amount of restoration work Kino Lorber put into this ‒ quite frankly, goofy ‒ flick. Mastered from 4K scans of original left and right 35mm film elements, The Maze is presented here in two presentations: 2D and 3D, the latter of which was restored for this release by the great folks over at the 3-D Film Archive.

Presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode is nothing short of stunning throughout, and the choice of DTS-HD MA 3.0 and Mono audio selections only adds to the fun (though you won't notice anything over the sound of your own laughter come the finale). English (SDH) subtitles are included for this release, as is an audio commentary with quite the impressive line-up of film historians: Tom Weaver, Bob Furmanek, Dr. Robert J. Kiss, and David Schecter. Even if you can't get into the film itself, the trivia-laden commentary track makes for a damn good listen on its own. Also included here is a new interview with actress Veronica Hurst, and the original theatrical trailer.

Sure, The Maze is a is a far-cry from the likes of David Bowie's Goblin King or Pan's Labyrinth, but it still entertains sufficiently (and this movie is also thankfully devoid of Maze Runner Dylan O'Brien). But there is also a great deal of film history to take in here, from the production itself to the highly informative audio commentary. To say nothing of the truly amazing A/V aspects of this Kino Lorber Studio Classics release in itself.

Thus, the flick comes Highly Recommended for one in need of a hopping good '50s 3D time.

The Maze debuts on 3D Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics April 24, 2018.

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