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Simon Cordier is a well-respected magistrate who visits a condemned prisoner, Louis Girot, just before the man's execution. Girot again pleads his innocence insisting that he has been taken over by a spirit that forced him to commit his crimes. Cordier doesn't believe him and the man suddenly dies. Cordier does however note a rapid change in his personality during their short interview. In the following days, Cordier must face a number of strange occurrences in his home. He begins to wonder if he is sleepwalking but is soon hearing voices and begins to wonder about his sanity. It's recommended to him that he take up sculpting, something he once had an interest in. He develops a relationship with Odette, a gold digger married to a struggling artist, but the evil, invisible spirit soon drives him to murder. Written by
When Simon throws the box of art supplies at the Horla to prove he is standing in front of the mirror, you can see Simon's reflection in the sheet of glass used to create the invisible Horla. See more »
[first title card]
"... the vulture has eaten the pigeon; the wolf has eaten the lamb; the lion has devoured the sharp-tongued buffalo; man has killed the lion with an arrow, with spear, with gun-powder; but the *"Horla"* will make of man what man has made of the horse and of the ox; His chattel, His slave, and His food, but the mere power of His will. Woe to us!"... Guy de Maupassant
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The late and great comedian Flip Wilson had a sketch he did on his popular TV show in which, when confronted by tell-tale evidence, he would look into the camera and exclaim, "The Devil made me do it." In "Diary of a Madman," Simon Cordier (Vincent Price) attempts to exonerate himself from murder in flashback fashion with the excuse, "The Horla made me do it." In Cordier's tale, the evil force manifests itself to its victims and takes control of their minds. When under the Horla's powers, the victim's eyes emit a strange light indicative of possession. The special effects are not bad for 1963 except for this light which now looks cheap, almost humorous, in execution.
Cordier is a well-respected judge who wants to understand what drives humans to cold-blooded murder. His police friend, Captain Robert Rennedon (Stephen Roberts), has a more pessimistic view of human nature, believing killers are born that way, sort of a bad seed type outlook. When Cordier visits a murderer that he has sentenced to die, the condemned man tells Cordier of the Horla, physically attacks Cordier and in the scuffle the man dies. The Horla leaves the man's body and takes up residence in Cordier. Cordier is advised by his doctor to renew his old hobby of sculpturing to rid himself of his anxiety (caused by the Horla). In the process of obtaining a model for his new endeavor, a beautiful yet crafty and greedy woman, Odette Mallotte DuClasse (Nancy Kovack), enters his life. He falls in love with her not knowing that she is already married to a young artist, Paul (Chris Warfield), who finds it difficult to satisfy her pecuniary needs. The Horla intervenes with other plans for Odette and her husband.
Price, already an established actor for over twenty years, turned more and more to horror films following his success in the 1953 3-D thriller, "House of Wax." Price was no stranger to the genre. One of his first lead roles was in "The Invisible Man Returns" in 1940. Price was such a versatile actor that he did comedy as expertly as he did drama. Most of his exercises in the macabre were played with a tongue-in-cheek rascality that movie goers loved. He became associated with Roger Corman and later with Michael Jackson for his "Thriller" masterpiece.
"Diary of a Madman," loosely based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, is a typical Vincent Price flick from the 1960's with lots to recommend for the lovers of this type horror show. If you are, like me, an avid fan of Vincent Price, it is a must-see.
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