Film Review: Diary of a Madman (1963)

Also known as: The Horla (working title)
Release Date: March 6th, 1963
Directed by: Reginald Le Borg
Written by: Robert E. Kent
Based on: The Horla and other stories by Guy de Maupassant
Music by: Richard LaSalle
Cast: Vincent Price, Nancy Kovak, Lewis Martin, Chris Warfield, Elaine Devry, Ian Wolfe

Robert E. Kent Productions, Admiral Pictures, United Artists, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Murderers. They’re all the same. Humanity would be much better off without them.” – Police Captain Robert Rennedon

Vincent Price really could do no wrong in the ’60s. He was on a tear, especially with the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations he was in and all the other films he fit in between those shoots.

Unlike those Poe films, this one wasn’t directed by Roger Corman and it wasn’t a Poe story at all. However, this feels very close in visual and narrative tone to those other movies. This is Price’s most Poe feeling of his non-Poe pictures.

The plot is based off of a few stories by Guy de Maupassant, a French author who was considered to be a master of the short story. This primarily adapts a story called “The Horla”, which features an invisible supernatural being referred to as a Horla. This being haunts and possesses human beings and uses them to do terrible things, such as murder.

Vincent Price’s Simon Cordier becomes the newest victim of the Horla, as he comes into contact with it after visiting a prisoner, who is awaiting the guillotine after murdering four people. Upon this man’s death, the Horla sets its sights on Cordier and drives him to madness. However, Cordier continually fights back in an effort to destroy the Horla and to release the truth behind all the crimes by writing all the details in his journal.

I really love this movie and outside of the Poe ones, this was a Price picture that left an impression on me at a young age when I was just discovering the actor. The story is really good and Price delivers in every single scene, making you feel sorry for the peril he’s in, as he’s truly a nice and innocent man, forced to do heinous things.

I thought that the director, Reginald Le Borg, really created one of the best Price pictures of the ’60s, even if this one isn’t as fondly remembered as many of the others. He was no stranger to horror, having directed one of the Mummy movies for Universal, as well as directing other legends like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone and John Carradine. While Le Borg could have just been emulating the style of Corman’s Poe movies, the end result, here, is quite good.

Diary of a Madman deserves more praise and notoriety than it has gotten over the years. It’s interesting, even if it’s not wholly original, and it does pretty much everything right.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other 1960s horror films with Vincent Price, especially his collaborations with Roger Corman.

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