The Mansion of Madness (1973)

The inmates are running the asylum in this disturbingly surreal film, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Mondo Macabro USA R0 DVD.

The Film

"I had heard, at Paris, that the institution of Monsieur Maillard was managed
 upon what is vulgarly termed the "system of soothing", that all punishments were avoided,
 that even confinement was seldom resorted to, that the patients, while secretly watched,
were left much apparent liberty, and that most of them were permitted to roam about
the house and grounds in the ordinary apparel of persons in right mind."
                                                                                                                Edgar Allan Poe - The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether
A journalist named Gaston LeBlanc is paying a visit to the lunatic asylum run by Dr. Maillard. Inside, he explains how the asylum is run under the Maillard Soothing programme, where the patients are permitted to roam the grounds freely, encouraged to display their insane tendancies. However, after being shown the horrific dungeons, LeBlanc is convinced that something is amiss....

Taking a framework from one of Edgar Allan Poe's lesser known works, The Mansion of Madness is simply one of the strangest films ever made. As he tours the facility, Dr. Maillard spouts all manner of bizarre pseudo-psychology, however, it is the asylum's inmates who give the film its most surreal edge; from a man who plays fowl, known as Mr. Chicken, to inmates who live in glass boxes, and a man named Danté imprisioned deep in a darkened gaol who recites poetry all day. The film moves very slowly around these characters, and the pacing is almost non-existant although it does boast a fitting conclusion.

Director Juan López Moctezuma was a friend and producer for Alejandro Jodorowsky, considered to be one of the strangest directors of the 20th Century. Mansion of Madness runs in a similar vein to many of Jodorowsky's infamous films with some absurdly bizarre imagery throughout. The set designers really pushed the boat out here with some wonderfully strange sets populated by some equally mad extras in strange costumes. The music is infrequent but suits the film well.

Mansion of Madness is a largely plotless and disturbingly surreal look at madness, ranking alongside such cerebral films as Werner Herzog's Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970). For most of the runtime the film is actually quite hard to watch and it can be hard to make it through the entire film in a single sitting. Rather like the Herzog and Jodorowsky films, Mansion of Madness is more of an experience than it is entertaining and you need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy its somewhat dubious charms, but to fans of these strangest of films it comes highly recommended.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? No-one of note
Directed by anyone interesting? Juan López Moctezuma - a very little known Mexican director, best remembered for the bizarre female vampire film, Alucarda (1978)
Any violence/gore? Some violence although nothing strong.
Any sex? Several female topless and soft nude scenes.
Who is it for?
Recommended fans of surreal and bizarre cinema. Not recommended to anyone else!

The DVD 

Visuals 1.33:1 fullscreen (there is no notable cropping on the sides, so this might be the OAR). Colour
The print is decent quality, with some very noticable print damage but the colours and detail are good and it is generally better than most public domain titles. A couple of scenes are slightly softer.
Audio English and Spanish mono. English track is missing in a couple of short scenes, replaced by Spanish.
Both tracks sound okay, the English track plays best as the film was shot in English and the voices are better.
Subtitles English #1 - Infill for the brief missing scenes on the English track.
English #2 - Translation of the Spanish audio.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Documentary  piece on Juan López Moctezuma from the Mondo Macabro TV series, including some interviews and clips of this film as well as from Alucarda. (13m 43s)
  • Interview with Spanish director Guillermo del Toro about the influence Moctezuma had on him. (7m)
  • Detailed text interviews, filmography and biography of Moctezuma plus notes on the film.
  • Photo gallery - posters and lobby cards.
  • Original cinema trailer. 
  • Mondo Macabro Promotional reel.
Note: most of these extras are the same as included on Mondo Macabro's earlier Alucarda DVD.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? None known.
Cuts? None known - Spanish language print, includes scenes cut from the American prints of the film.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 11th September 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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