MANSION OF MADNESS (1973) – The Dungeon Review!
I’m a big fan of Juan López Moctezuma’s film Alucarda and was anxious to check out his other efforts. Moctezuma only directed five films and besides Alucarda, Mansion Of Madness has been the only one I’ve been able to find for rent thus far. Mansion of Madness is the director’s comedy-horror debut set in a mental asylum in the country and is jammed packed full of imaginative and surreal visuals. The film is light on horror elements and heavy on wackiness. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and once again find myself disagreeing adamantly with the IMDB general population who gave the film a failing grade. I guess if you went into it expecting a horror you’d be disappointed but if what you read below intrigues you then you are in for a real treat!
Reporter Gaston LeBlanc travels to a remote mental asylum to speak with Dr. Maillard about his “soothing system” for treating the insane. What he finds are patients roaming freely about the property engaging in all manner of peculiar behavior and the doctor may be crazier than his patients!
Mansion Of Madness has a story similar to S.F. Brownrigg’s film released the same year Don’t Look In The Basement. Neither film was the first to explore a lunatics running the asylum theme but both directors certainly leave their own unique signature on the idea. This however is where the parallels between the two films end. Mansion Of Madness relies heavily on its visuals which are definitely its best asset. The costumes and sets are superb! The colourful quirky opening is an eye-catching feast and those to follow were equally entertaining. There’s a bit of a bird theme running through the film. A man dressed like a chicken is shown pecking away at feed just like his feathered brethren who he lives with in a pen. Another trio of bird-people does a choreographed dance with scythes! Yip. Wacky fun! The goofy music definitely compliments the vibrant and strange proceedings. The story is decent and has a fun twist and was certainly an ample enough excuse to march out a parade of delightfully odd and mesmerizing visuals. No gore here folks, but there is a touch of nudity and plenty of kooky craziness.
Arthur Hansel plays reporter Gaston LeBlanc who does a respectable job playing the straight guy. Gaston falls for Eugenie while visiting the asylum who may or not be a patient. Eugenie is played by Ellen Sherman and her character’s story is one of the films twists so I shall say no more. Crazy Dr. Maillard has some really over-the-top rants and speeches through the film. The insanely passionate doc has goals of world domination. Any madman worth his salt should have this goal! The eccentric doctor is played by Claudio Brook, and was definitely the films liveliest and most amusing character. These three are pretty much the focus but there is a multitude of extras playing lunatics who steal their share of the spotlight. The only real complaint I would have about Mansion Of Madness is the dialog is occasionally long-winded. But the random wordy dialog is a small blip in an otherwise very entertaining film.
The hypnotic strange visuals were extremely appealing to me. It probably won’t attract a lot of horror fans as those elements are very spare. Director Moctezuma was one of the producers of El Topo and I would say Mansion Of Madness has more in common with El Topo than your average horror film. At least so far as it applies to unusual visuals used to tell its story. Mansion Of Madness is based on the Edgar Allan Poe story The System Of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether. I’m not familiar with that particular Poe story but now I’m dying of curiosity to check it out! I thought Mansion of Madness was an absolute fucking delight and now I’ve really got to find the man’s other three films! Highly recommended!
Dungeon Raing: 4/5
Directed By: Juan López Moctezuma
Starring: Claudio Brook, Arthur Hansel, Ellen Sherman, Martin LaSalle, David Silva, Mónica Serna, Max Kerlow, Susana Kamini, Pancho Córdova, Roberto Dumont, Henry West, Jorge Bekris, René Alís, Mario Castillón Bracho, Oscar Saro