Monday, September 5, 2022

William Cameron Menzies: Art Director, Production Designer and Motion Picture Director

Multitalented William Cameron Menzies worked in and mastered ten motion picture disciplines. He first attended Yale University, followed by the University of Edinburgh, his parents were both Scottish immigrants, and after serving in the United States Army during the First World War. William Cameron Menzies finished his studies at the Art Students League of New York. 

This is a very small look at some of the motion pictures that are part of the legacy of William Cameron Menzies.

Above, Production Designer Menzies is working on his designs for 1939's, "Gone with the Wind". His actual crew credit reads:

Production Designed by William Cameron Menzies
The first documented film work from William Cameron Menzies, was the November 4, 1917 release, "The Mark of Cain", shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey, for the "Pathe Exchange". His actual crew credit reads:
Art Direction by William Cameron Menzies

The position was the head of the "Art Department", but in this particular motion picture he was the Art Department.


Above, an ad announcing "The Mark of Cain", starring popular ballroom dancer Irene Castle, the wife and dance partner of Vernon Castle. Her co-star was Spanish American actor, Antonio "Tony" Moreno.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE premiered in New York City on March 18, 1920

By 1920, William Cameron Menzies had joined "Famous Players-Lasky", the forerunner of "Paramount Pictures". On this production starring John Barrymore, Menzies was listed as:

Art Direction by William Cameron Menzies, uncredited
It should be noted that during the silent film era and into the 1930's. It was very common to find crew members listed as "Uncredited", even though they did the work and might be the only one in that technical position. In the case of this motion picture, there were two crew members under Menzies.

The picture is part of my article, "THE COMPLETE Motion Picture and Television Productions of 'THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE' 1908 to 2017", at:

ROBIN HOOD released October 18, 1922

For the Douglas Fairbanks "Robin Hood", William Cameron Menzies was the uncredited Assistant Art Director to Art Director, Wilfred Buckland, five films before Buckland's retirement in 1929.

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD premiered in New York City on March 18, 1924

Producer, writer, and star, Douglas Fairbanks wanted an epic fantasy film, and it would have a final running time of two-hours-and-twenty-minutes.

William Cameron Menzies was both the Art Director and the Production Designer for "The Thief of Bagdad". He had first worked as a Production Designer on the 1918 motion picture "The Naulahka", for the Pathe Exchange".

The director on the picture was Raoul Walsh.

According to biographer Eileen Whitford in her, 2007, biography of Douglas Fairbank's wife Mary Pickford, "Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood". William Cameron Menzies was largely responsible for the entire production design and he closely followed the requirements of Mary's husband.

So what did this production look like? 

Below is an aerial view of the Bagdad set designed by William Cameron Menzies.

THE BAT released on March 14, 1926

In 1908, mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote the novel "The Circular Staircase". In 1920, 
Rinehart and Avery Hopwood turned her novel into a successful stage play entitled "The Bat". Now, six-years later, "The Bat", became a motion picture directed, without credit, by Roland West. Who wrote the screenplay, also without credit. Which is interesting, because Roland West was the film's producer, that he took credit for.

What you had was murder by the mysterious person known as "The Bat" (he wears a full batman costume thirteen-years before DC Comics created the character), and the stolen "Favre Emeralds". Add several suspects, each with a reason for the proceeding murders and stealing the emeralds. All brought together with more murder at an old mansion, and that's were William Cameron Menzies came in.

The interior of the mansion was constructed, on the United Artists sound stage in Hollywood, under the direction of Menzies. He enlisted scenic artist Harvey Meyers to paint dark shadows on the set to increase the mood. The result is the first true haunted house setting, even though there had been such films in the past.

Above, the first on-screen "Bat-Signal".

And for those who are interested, meet "The Bat", below, on one of William Cameron Menzies's set designs. I could not locate who made the costumes for the motion picture.

William Cameron Menzies was improving his skills in Art Direction and worked upon "The Dove", released on December 31, 1927, starring Norma Talmadge.

The following year, Menzies, in the same capacity, worked on "The Tempest", released May 15, 1928, in London, England, and starring John Barrymore.

On May 16, 1929, at the "Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel", the very first "Academy Awards Ceremony" was held. The "Academy" was honoring motion pictures made in both 1927 and 1928. For his work on "The Dove" and "The Tempest", William Cameron Menzies received the First Ever Oscar for "Best Art Direction", now called "Best Production Design".

After the impact of 1927's "The Jazz Singer" with its tag line:
Jolson Talks!

The studio system still had many films in production being filmed as a silent feature, but upon the release, American audiences found themselves seeing hybrid pictures, part silent, part talkie. One such production was Douglas Fairbanks:

THE IRON MASK released on February 21, 1929

Art Direction on Douglas Fairbanks' "The Iron Mask" was by the uncredited William Cameron Menzies.

It would take until 1931 for William Cameron Menzies to finally move into the "Director's Chair" on a feature film. 

THE SPIDER released on September 27, 1931


Billed as William C. Menzies, William Cameron Menzies co-directed the fantasy mystery motion picture "The Spider", with co-director, Kenneth McKenna. 

Edmund Lowe stars as "Chatrand the Great", a magician who is trying to find out the identity of his amnesic assistant "Alexander", played by Howard Philips. "Alexander" is a real mind reader, but did he commit a series of murders wearing a Spider ring?

CHANDU THE MAGICIAN released on September 18, 1932

William C. Menzies was back as a co-director with Marcel Varnel. Also returning, as the radio and Sunday newspaper comic strip hero, "Chandu the Magician", was Edmund Lowe. Bela Lugosi portrayed "Roxor", the villain of the piece.

Menzies used every special effects trick he had learned for 1924's, "The Thief of Bagdad" and some more in this classic, overlooked, feature film. He also worked very closely with the credited Art Director, Max Parker, on the picture's look.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND released on December 22, 1933

If my reader has never seen this interesting motion picture, find it! 

As the above poster indicates, "Paramount Pictures" used every available contract player on their lot. The screenplay was slightly based upon Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland", but more upon Carroll's sequel, "Through the Looking Glass". It was co-written by William Cameron Menzies and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

The Art Direction was by William Cameron Menzies and he not only designed this production, but also designed all the costumes the actors wore. Which were made by Newt Jones with make-up by Wally Westmore.

Charlotte Henry had the title role. 

My article, "Charlotte Henry: 1933's, 'Alice in Wonderland', and 1934's, 'Babes in Toyland", will be found at:

The following are some of the stars of the picture in Menzies costumes.


Above, Charlotte Henry and Richard "Skeets" Galliagher as "The White Rabbit".
Below, William Austin as "The Gryphon", Charlotte Henry, and Cary Grant as "The Mock Turtle".

Above, Charlotte Henry and Roscoe Karns as "Tweedlee" and Jack Oakie as "Tweedledum".

Below, W.C. Fields as "Humpty-Dumpty".

Above, Gary Cooper as the "White Knight".

The motion picture was a box office bomb and brought up the question, should live action fantasy with strange looking characters be made by the studios? The answer came with 1939's, "The Wizard of Oz".

THINGS TO COME released in the United Kingdom on February 20, 1936

In 1933, Herbert George "H.G." Wells published his science fiction novel, "The Shape of Things to Come". The story tells of the world's future through the year 2106.

The screenplay for "Things to Come" is one of only two actually written by H.G. Wells. The words of the characters and the story are his own and were transferred to the motion picture screen by Director, William Cameron Menzies, in this classic Science Fiction feature film.

My article, "H.G. Wells On the Motion Picture and Television Screens", can be read at:

For the scope that Wells' screenplay covered, it required just the right producer and that was Alexander Korda of the "Korda Brothers". The other H.G. Wells screenplay, 1936's, "The Man Who Could Work Miracles", 1940's "The Thief of Bagdad", and 1949's, "The Third Man". My article, "Alexander, Zoltan, Vincent: 'The Korda Brothers, From Hungry With Love", can be read at:

The settings designer  was Vincent Korda.

The screenplay starts in "Everytown" in 1940 and ends in "Everytown" in 2054".

Looking at the World situation in 1936, Wells predicts the start of a Second World War in 1940, one year after the real war started. "Everytown" is attacked by bombs from planes of "That Country", the implication of Germany without saying the name is obvious. 

For the critical roles of "John Cabal" and "Oswald Cabal", William Cameron Menzies chose actor Raymond Massey. 

Above, "John Cabal" in 1940, and in 1970. Below, "Oswald Cabal" in 2054.

The enemy is defeated in 1966, but the enemy in one last ditch attempt deployed a biographical gas weapon causing those exposed to it to have "The Wandering Sickness". Its victims walk around like zombies until they finally die from starvation. 

Above the title card, in Ray Harryhausen's colorized version, giving the viewer the year the war ended and the "Wandering Sickness" began. Below, "Everytown" in 1970, under the control of a warlord just called "The Boss", played by Sir Ralph Richardson. 

H.G. Wells was a socialist and biologist, but also a futurist and wrote several utopian novels and short stories. All of these traits are reflected in this screenplay and as in most of his works, science conquerors all. It is the scientists of the world that come together to save the planet in 1970, as "Wings Over the World", and use the gas of peace.

Peace comes to "Everytown" and "The Boss" dies. The film jumps to 2054 and the futuristic "Everytown". The scientists have built a giant canyon to send two people to the moon, but there are those who oppose such a plan and attempt to stop what the scientists considered human progress.

The space craft is launched to the moon as the crowds disperse and the picture ends with two fathers concerned for the safety of their children on their journey into the stars and mankind's future.

"Oswald Cabal", asks a question of his close friend, "Raymond Passworthy", whose family goes back to 1940, with "John Cabal" and "Pippa Passworthy", both "Passworthy's" are played by Edward Chapman:

All the universe or nothingness? Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?  

William Cameron Menzies initial cut of "Things To Come" ran two-hours-and-ten minutes. After the British Board of Censors had their look, the movie now ran one-hour-fifty-seven-minutes-and-thirteen-seconds. By the time of the British initial release, the picture ran one-hour-forty-eight-minutes-and-forty-one-seconds. When the American censors got their hands on the picture, the United States release, on April 18, 1936, now ran one-hour-thirty-six-minutes-and-thirty-one-seconds. When the motion picture was reissued in the United Kingdom in 1943, it ran only one-hour-twelve-minutes-and-thirteen-seconds. While the American cut was reduced to one-hour-thirty-two-minutes-and-forty-four-seconds. 

So, what version of the film have you seen?

GONE WITH THE WIND the premiere was on December 15 1939, in Atlanta, Georgia

I started this article with a photograph of William Cameron Menzies working on his designs for the entire production of producer David O. Selznick's "Gone with the Wind". However, Menzies was also an uncredited Second Unit Director on the film. 

William Cameron Menzies directed the doubles for stars Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in the burning of Atlanta sequence. The buildings used were sets that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had originally planned to destroy for more lot space. The studio is located in Culver City, a small suburb of Los Angeles and space was always critical, but so was a spreading fire.


At the "12th Academy Awards", on February 29, 1940, William Cameron Menzies received the "Academy Honorary Award"

for outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood

in the production of "Gone with the Wind". 

REBECCA released on March 21, 1940

The novel by Daphne Du Maurier, directed by the master, Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, is a classic motion picture containing the uncredited Art Direction of William Cameron Menzies.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT released on August 16, 1940

I mentioned that William Cameron Menzies mastered ten motion picture disciplines. For Alfred Hitchcock's, "Foreign Correspondent", his name is found under "Additional Crew", and credited for Special Production Effects. Today, he would be called the Special Effects Supervisor on the picture. 

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD first released in the United States of December 5, 1940, and next in the United Kingdom on December 25, 1940

This was the "Korda Brother's" Christmas present to England, that had been under the "German Air Force Blitz" since three-months prior to the pictures release.

The motion picture was produced by three men, Alexander Korda, Zolton Korda, and William Cameron Menzies.

The motion picture had three credited directors, Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, and Tim Whelen. The picture also had three uncredited directors, Alexander Korda, Zolton Korda, and William Cameron Menzies.

The motion pictures art director was the uncredited Vincent Korda.

There were four uncredited associate art directors, Ferdinand Bellin, W. Percy Day, William Cameron Menzies, and Frederick Pusey.

Why all of these credited and uncredited names? 

The answer is the Second World War and the fact that Alexander Korda was running short of funds in England, because of the war. Which created the need to complete the motion picture in the safety of the United States. Enter co-producer and director William Cameron Menzies and Zolton Korda, who happened to be in the United States at the time. Along with American special effects director, Lawrence W. Butler.

With all its production problems, 1940's, "The Thief of Bagdad", remains the all-time most successful motion picture from the very successful Korda Brothers.

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS premiered in New York City on July 14, 1943

For the seventh time as a Production Designer, William Cameron Menzies was dealing with an epic war film, not set during the American Civil War, but the Spanish Civil War. He had to work with actual locations in the California-Nevada, Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, and recreate them on a sound stage at the Hollywood, "Paramount Studio".

DUEL IN THE SUN a "Veterans Only" premier on December 29, 1946, in Van Nuys (Suburb of Los Angeles) , California

This was producer David O. Selznick's controversial Western that earned the nickname of "Lust in the Dust", because of the sexual heat being generated, between Jennifer Jones's character of "Pearl Chavez", and Gregory Peck's bad boy character of "Lewton 'Lewt' McCanles", that was driving the censors crazy.

Although the on-screen directing credit would remain with King Vidor, like many other major films, there were several uncredited directors. One was William Cameron Menzies, and another was David O. Selnick, himself. Along with other distinguished directors of the time, Josef von Sternberg, William Dieterle, Otto Bower, and Sidney Franklin.

Otto Bower and B. Reeves Eason were the credited second unit directors, but there were two uncredited second unit directors, William Cameron Menzies and Chester M. Franklin.

For those of my readers interested in the story line for the picture. I go into detail at the start of my article about co-star Gregory Peck, entitled, "Gregory Peck: Five Westerns-Five Different Characters", which will be found at:


Between "Duel and the Sun" and 1952, William Cameron Menzies worked twice as an Art Director, including director Frank Capra's, 1946, "It's a Wonderful Life". Directed two episodes of the television anthology series, "Fireside Theatre", and two "B" Westerns. As a Production Designer, Menzies designed those two "B" Westerns, and the 1948, Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer drama, "Arch of Triumph". 


In 1913, British author Sax Rohmer, published a short story entitled, "The Zayat Kiss". In it he introduced his evil character from the "Yellow Peril", the Chinese "Dr. Fu Manchu".

In 1952, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) planned a weekly series based upon Rohmer's villain. A pilot was filmed Directed by William Cameron Menzies, starring John Carradine as "Fu Manchu", and Sir Cedric Hardwicke as his purser, "Scotland Yard Detective Nayland Smith". While, John Newland, the future host of televisions "One Step Beyond", was "Smith's Doctor Watson", "Dr. Petrie". The pilot is lost!

WE'RE NOT MARRIED released on July 11, 1952

Under the heading Additional Crew my reader will find the name William Cameron Menzies, who directed the montage sequence. Back in 1934, he directed a similar style montage sequence for Cecil B. DeMille's "Cleopatra", but without credit. 

ANDROCLES AND THE LION premiered in Los Angles on October 30, 1952

The co-United Kingdom and United States production was designed by the credited Harry Horner, 1950's, "Red Planet Mars", and the uncredited William Cameron Menzies. The initial production was meant as a comedy based upon the George Bernard Shaw play. However, when it first was shown in the United States, nobody laughed and the film was considered a bore. Reshoots adding actresses in gauze dresses and a real lion failed to change any opinions, and according to actor, Alan Young, turned the picture into a "blood and guts" feature.

LA REGINA DI SABA (THE QUEEN OF SHEBA) released in Italy on November 6, 1952

William Cameron Menzies traveled to Italy to be the Art Director on this Italian historical film. Take a look at the complete cast and crew listing and Menzies is the only non-Italian name and he shares credit with Giulio Bongini, on his second motion picture.

Next, a Cult Science Fiction film and a misfired Horror movie.

INVADERS FROM MARS premiered in Detroit, Michigan, on April 9, 1953

The motion picture is both Directed by and with a Production Designed by William Cameron Menzies.

The story was from the uncredited John Tucker Battle, who wrote the Second World War movie, 1951's, "The Frogmen", starring Richard Widmark and Dana Andrews. It is said that his wife had a dream and Battle turned it into a story. 

The screenplay was written by Richard Blake, who hadn't written a motion picture screenplay since 1940.

Like 1950's "Rocketship X-M", that was made to beat producer George Pal's "Destination Moon" to movie theaters. 1953's, "Invaders from Mars" had two goals, beat George Pal's "War of the Worlds" to the movie theaters, and be the first motion picture to show aliens in color. Yes, 1951's "Flight to Mars" was made in Color, but the Martians all looked like Hollywood actors with one from this motion picture.

Helena Carter portrayed "Dr. Pat Blake". Carter's first motion picture was the 1947, film-noir, "Time Out of Mind", with sixth billing behind actor Leo G. Carroll and thirteen films later was her last, this motion picture. 

Arthur Franz portrayed "Dr. Stuart Kelston". In 1951, Franz portrayed the title character in the comedy, "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man", that same year he took a "Flight to Mars" as an Earthmanback in 1949, he was a soldier in John Wayne's "Sands of Iwo Jima".

Jimmy Hunt portrayed "David MacLean". Sixteen-years old Hunt, had already appeared in thirty-two motion pictures by this feature. This month, September 2022, Hunt will be doing a guest appearance at "Cinecon", in Hollywood, with a new 4K print of "Invaders from Mars".

Above, left to right, Arthur Franz, Helena Carter, and Jimmy Hunt

Leif Erickson portrayed "David's" father, "Mr. George MacLean". Erickson started out as a band singer and trombone player, but became part of German emigree Max Reinhart's acting troupe. His first film was as a band singer, 1933's, "The Sweetheart of Signa Chi", but the actor is best known for portraying "Big John Cannon", on the television series, "The High Chaparral", from 1967 through 1971.

Hillary Brooke portrayed "David's" mother, "Mrs. George MacLean". Brooke started out as a "Show Girl", in 1937's, "New Faces of 1937", but co-starred with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in both 1943's, "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death", and 1945's, "The Woman in Green". The actress had an uncredited role in 1942's, "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror". Like Erickson, Brooke became known for her television work, she was a regular on "The Abbott and Costello Show", 1952 through 1953, appeared in twenty-six episodes of "My Little Margie", between 1952 and 1955, and had co-starred with Caesar Romero in the 1951 Science Fiction movie, "The Lost Continent".

Above, Hillary Brooke and Leif Erickson

Morris Ankrum portrayed "Army Colonel Fielding". Besides this Science Fiction entry, Ankrum appeared in 1950's, "Rocketship X-M", 1951's, "Flight to Mars" as a Martian, 1952's, "Red Planet Mars", 1956's, "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", 1957's, "KRONOS", 1957's, "The Beginning of the End", and 1957's, "The Giant Claw", and of course, this does not include all of his other genre appearances including twenty-two times playing a "Judge" on televisions "Perry Mason". My article, "Morris Ankrum the Face of 1950's Science Fiction/Horror Movies", may be read at:

Above left to right, Arthur Franz, Morris Ankrum, and Jimmy Hunt

Milburn Stone portrayed "Army Captain Roth", Stone's on-screen acting career began in 1935, he was a reporter in 1940's, "Black Friday", starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, "Navy Lieutenant Farragut" in director Cecil B. DeMille's, 1942, "Reap the Wild Wind", co-starred with John Carradine and Evelyn Ankers in the 1943 Horror movie, "Captive Wild Woman", and in 1943 was in both "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death", and "The Mad Ghoul". However, Stone is best known for portraying "Dr. Galen Adams", aka: "Doc", on televisions "Gunsmoke", from 1955 through 1975.

Robert Shayne portrayed "Dr. William Wilson". In 1953, Shayne starred as "The Neanderthal Man", and in 1954 was in a three-part episode of televisions "Space Patrol" and the movie "Tobor the Great". However, Robert Shayne is best remembered not for 1957's "KRONOS", or "The Giant Claw", but portraying "Police Inspector Henderson" on televisions "The Adventures of Superman", 1952 through 1958. My article, "Robert Shayne: Superman's Detective Henderson and "B" Minus Science Fiction and Horror", can be read at:

William Cameron Menzies was supposed to make two motion pictures in the "Third-Dimension" and this was to be his first, but just prior to the start of filming. Father and son producers, Edward L. Alperson and Edward L. Alperson, Jr., informed him that they had decided not to shoot this picture in 3-D. This is probably because the costs involved for an independent production in the process finally hit home. "Senior" had made movies for three-years only, 1936 through 1939. While, this was "Junior's" fourth movie since only 1951, and the other three were very low budget "B's".

The reverse had happened to director Gordon Douglas with the 1954 Science Fiction classic, "THEM!". Douglas had shot the feature in 3-D, but studio owner Jack L. Warner decided the process was too expensive and box office was down. So, he ordered the picture released in 2-D and the 3-D prints destroyed.

Speaking to the basic story created by John Tucker Battle, there may have been a dream by his wife, but I direct my reader to "David's" parents and an actual event that both Battle and screenplay writer Richard Blake would have been well aware of, for that matter everyone connected with the motion picture.

The motion picture was made during the "Second Red Scare", when American's feared nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Two months after the release of "Invaders from Mars", on June 19, 1953, at "Sing-Sing Prison", husband and wife Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were put to death. The charge was spying on behalf of the Soviet Union and providing top secret information on nuclear weapon designs to enemies of the United States. Their two sons believed their parents were innocent and described them as loving parents, others agreed, and claimed someone was manipulating the pair.

In the screenplay, "Mr. and Mrs. MacLean", are shown first as loving parents in a typical 1950's household. However, after the Martians intervene in "David's" parent's lives, their personalities change and they both become emotionless spies and saboteurs for the Martians on the nuclear powered space craft "Mr. MacLean" is working on. 

William Cameron Menzies was using subtle direction to influence the thoughts and feelings of his audience. He controlled what they saw, because there are no location shots. The motion picture was entirely shot on a sound stage with the sets he had designed and built for the 3-D process and to drop unconscious clues as to the screenplays twist ending. 

A classic non-human actor in the film is the fence leading to the sandpit, that "David" claims during  a storm he saw a flying saucer land in.

When "Mr. MacLean", to calm "David's" fears, goes to the large sandpit that is seen from their house. There is a fence that stretches across the entire sandpit area for the safety of those who cross between the two sides. The following shot is somewhat misleading, because of the distance from, and the angle of the camera used to film it.

When the two police officers, responding to "Mrs. MacLean's" call about her missing husband, visit the sandpit, the fence is slightly smaller at the far end, but perhaps not recognizable as such by the audience yet, and seems harmless to the police officers. One goes onto the sand, disappears, and the other goes in search of his partner.


The two officers return to the "MacLean" home and seemingly are happy that "Mr. MacLean" turned up safe. As they leave, one of the officers reminds "Mr. MacLean", whom they just met, that the three have a mission to perform.

Like her son, the comment seems strange to "Mrs. MacLean". Shortly before the police officers returned, "David" noticed a RED surgical "X" on the back of his father's neck. 

The next day from his room, "David" sees his father take his mother to the sandpit to show her something. At the sandpit, the fence is definitely is shorter from the two police officers being sucked into the sand by the unseen Martians. 

The shorten fence should have been of concern to "David's" neighbor, "Kathy Wilson", played by Janine Perreau. Who has been there many times with and without "David", but is sucked into the sand by the Martians as "David" watched from his room. In panic, he runs to "Kathy's" house and tells "Mrs. Wilson", played by Fay Baker, that something has happened to her, but "Kathy" returns.

As "David" leaves, he sees the house is on fire and calls to "Mrs. Wilson", who just scolded him for telling a lie about "Kathy". "Mrs. Wilson" comes around the house and sees the fire and uses the hose to put it out. While standing nearby, "Kathy" has an emotionless expression on her face. 

Probably the most noticeable of Menzies' designs that are subconsciously projecting the twist ending is the nightmarish police station sets.

When "David" first enters, there's an elongated entry hall designed out of proportion to a regular one.

The sets and the angles of the shots seem to belong in the 1920's German expressionist period of a film like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari".

The perspective is way off from normal and would have made a great third-dimension sequence. Note the depth, foreground, middle ground, and back ground of the scene with the Chief of Police.

The Chief of Police tells the desk sergeant he has called "David's" parents and they're on the way. He next instructs the sergeant to lock "David" up for his safety as he has mental problems. Even the cell has a strange perspective and shape.

The kind desk sergeant calls "Dr. Patricia Blake", the local health department doctor, to come and speak to "David MacLean".

After checking "Dr. Blake's" neck for the  surgical "X", "David" tells her his fantastic story. "Dr. Blake" isn't sure she believes and story, but wants to take her to a friend, "Dr. Kelston", at the observatory. As they're leaving, "David's" parents arrive to take him away, but "Blake" quickly comes up with a story about "David" having a possible contagious disease and under her authority needs to take him to the local hospital for isolation and treatment.

While the controlled "Mrs. MacLean" wants to take "David" to the sandpit, "Mr. MacLean" realizes the situation and the two leave.

Things move fast, as "Dr. Kelton" reveals the nuclear-powered rocket to "David" and "Dr. Blake", adding that both "David's" father and "Kathy's" are working on the same top-secret project. 

"David", looking through the telescope also sees his father take a military officer he works with to the sandpit.

"Dr. Kelton" shows "David" a model of a flying saucer that he identifies as the one that landed in the sand pit. and "Kelton" tells him and "Dr. Blake" that the saucer must have come from Mars, because of how close the planet is to Earth. 

"Colonel Fielding, Army Intelligence" is contacted by "Dr. Kelton" and the army is ordered to the area.

At the "MacLean" home, "Colonel Fielding", his aide, "Sergeant Rinaldi", played by Max Wagner, join "Dr. Kelton" and "David" to look at the sandpit from the roof of the "MacLean" house, but as they're observing, "Sergeant Rinaldi" slips away.


"Sergeant Rinaldi" decides on his own to get a closer observation of the sandpit area, but instead becomes a Martian captive.

"Kathy Wilson" suddenly dies and "Dr. Blake" shows everyone a tiny device that the Martian's implanted at the base of her skull to control her. It is a small oscillation device working on piezoelectricity and the Martian's made the decision that "Kathy" wasn't useful anymore and killed her with a signal to it.

Meanwhile, the two police officers, "David's" parents, and the military officer attack the complex with the space craft, but the officers and the military officer will be killed by the alerted military police.

However, "Mr. MacLean" shoots and kills "Dr. Wilson" at long range.

Both of "David's" parents are killed as they attempt to flee in a car that crashes into a wall and burns.

At the sandpit, "Colonel Fielding" points out the spot he wants his engineers to dig down to the Martian tunnel system.

At a safe distance from the actual sandpit, "Dr. Blake" and "David" are talking. Suddenly, the ground opens up beneath them and the two fall into the Martian tunnels.

What "David" and "Dr. Blake" see are not actual Martians, or Mutates, as some people say. These are the "Mutax", described in the screenplay as "Synthetic Mutants", created by their Martian masters. Perhaps that explains the obvious zippers on their backs, or not.

Inside the flying saucer, "Dr. Pat Blake" and "David MacLean" re-meet "Army Sergeant Rinaldi", now under the Martian's control and the means for communication.

"David" and "Dr. Blake" are shown the only Martian on the flying saucer, a being with a normal size head, but a tentacled shrunken body that communicates telepathically through "Rinaldi". He tells the other two that the Martian is:
mankind developed to its ultimate intelligence

The Martian head is portrayed by Mexican American actress Luce Potter.

Meanwhile, "Colonel Fielding" and the army has broken into the tunnel system. The tunnels are created by a heat ray gun that bubbles up solid rock and then melts it. "Fielding" and his soldiers encounter two "Mutax" that attempt to use the ray gun against them.

On an information sheet that came with my Laser Disk copy of "Invaders from Mars", apparently William Cameron Menzies first tried balloons to be the bubbles, but they kept either popping or deflating on their own. The solution were hundreds of blown-up condoms.  

Inside the flying saucer, "Dr. Blake" is taken to a table to have one of the control devices placed in her and "David" attacks the one real Martian.

Just before the piezoelectricity device is to enter "Dr. Pat Blake's" neck, "Colonel Fielding" and the army arrive, pull her off the table, set a time bomb, and with the doctor and "David" leave the flying saucer to enter the tunnel system.

The group encounters another "Mutax" and kills it, before it can use the ray gun on them. However, the group finds itself at a dead end, but "David" somehow knows how to use the ray gun and creates a hole in the tunnel for everyone to escape.

They all make it above ground as the Martian flying saucer starts to appear in the sandpit.

As "David" runs away from the sandpit, the saucer clears the sandpit, the firing mechanism on the bomb reaches fire!


The flying saucer explodes, "David" awakes in his own bed during the thunder storm. Confused, he runs to his parent's room, they tell their son he had a bad dream, nothing more. "David" returns to his bedroom and goes to close the open window as the flying saucer is seen landing in the sandpit.

In 1954, "Invaders from Mars" came to the United Kingdom, but had to get passed the British censors. The censors considered the "Nightmare" ending to horrifying even for adults at the time. It was removed and a happy ending replaced it.

The ending now had the added scene of "David", and "Dr. Blake", joining "Dr. Kelton" behind a tank to protect them from the exploding Martian flying saucer. She assures "David" that his parents are alright and will be joining him soon, the scene dissolves to "David's" bedroom with both doctor's saying goodnight to him, fade out to end title.

For the United Kingdom, the observatory scenes were expanded, but they didn't match the original scenes from a year earlier. Someone added pictures on the walls they weren't in the William Cameron Menzies' film. One moment there were no pictures and the next, pictures. The clothing Jimmy Hunt wore in the new shots were slightly different from the original and like the pictures on the wall, kept changing within the same scene. Not to forget that Hunt looked one year older.

THE MAZE released on July 26, 1953

William Cameron Menzies, above with the specially designed 3-D camera. He finally was able to film a motion picture in the third-dimension, which he released at the start of that short craze. My article on those first 3-D motion pictures, even one by director Alfred Hitchcock, entitled, "THIRD DIMENSTION the Golden Age of 3-D Motion Pictures 1952-1955", can be viewed through your    3-D glasses at:

The features Production Design was also by Director, William Cameron Menzies. 

The story was based upon Swiss author Maurice-Yves Sandoz's, 1945, novel "The Maze". Sandoz was one of the founders of the Swiss fantastic tales and science fiction.

The screenplay was by Daniel B. Ullman, his career started with writing screenplays in 1949, but starting in 1956, was mainly television scripts with the occasional motion picture screenplay.  Daniel Ullman was one of three screenplay writers on stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen's 1961 version of Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island".

Richard Carlson portrayed "Gerald MacTeam". Richard Carlson had just been in the classic 3-D motion picture, 1953's, "It Came from Outer Space". My article on his career, "Richard Carlson the Academic Turned Actor", will be found at:

Veronica Hurst portrayed "Kitty Murray". British television actress Hurst was born on the island of Malta, and this was her only American made motion picture.  

Above Veronica Hurst on the right, on the left is:

Katherine Emery portraying "Aunt Edith Murray".  Emery's second film was producer Val Lewton's classic, and a favorite of this writer's, 1945, "Isle of the Dead", starring Boris Karloff.
Katherine Emery was primarily a legitimate stage actress, which explains only having twelve motion picture roles.

Michael Pate portrayed "William". Australian actor Pate is probably best known for two roles, he was "Vittorio" in John Wayne's, 1953, 3-D Western, "Hondo", and the vampire gunslinger, "Drake Robey", in 1959's, "Curse of the Undead", co-starring a pre-"Rawhide", Eric Fleming. For "James Bond" trivia junkies, Michael Pate was the first actor to portray "Leiter", in the 1954, television version of Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale", on the American anthology series, "Climax". He is also part of my article, "Woody Strode and Michael Pate: Western Stalwarts", at:

Below, "Gerald" and "Kitty's" mutual friends.

In the above still to Veronica Hurst's left is Hillary Brooke portraying "Peggy Lord". To her right is John Dodsworth portraying "Dr. Bert Dilling". To his right is Lilian Bond portraying "Margaret Dilling". On the far right is Robin Hughes portraying "Richard Roblar". 

The problem with the film is the ending, but let's look at the mystery and the 3-D production values until that point. As William Cameron Menzies returns to his haunted house of "The Bat" moved to a Scottish Castle.

The movie opens with "Aunt Edith" breaking the fourth wall of the theater and speaking to the audience. She tells them that the story started one-year ago. "Edith" and her niece "Kitty" were vacationing in Cannes, France, and meeting with "Kitty's" fiancĂ© "Gerald MacTeam" and some of their close friends. 

Fade to an engagement party at a fancy French restaurant.

While "Kitty" dances with "Richard Roblar", "Aunt Edith" and "Gerald" talk about his upcoming wedding. He mentions that his uncle, "Sir Samuel MacTeam", will not be attending, because for some reason he never leaves his home, Castle Craven, in Scotland. "Gerald" ads that as a boy visiting his uncle, he was locked-up in his room at night and told to stay out of the tower room. On the grounds there's an old fashion maze in the garden he was never permitted to enter, but could see from his room.

The movie switches back to "Aunt Edith", who breaking the fourth wall again, tells the audience that "Gerald's" strange story worried her, because if his uncle died, "Gerald" assumed the baronetcy. "Aunt Edith" now returns to her memories and mentions that "Kitty" and "Gerald" were swimming at their hotel pool when he received a letter summoning him to Castle Craven.

 Six weeks pass and "Kitty" and "Aunt Edith" read the obituary of "Sir Samuel MacTeam".

Since "Gerald" suddenly just left, he has not contacted either "Aunt Edith", or "Kitty" by telephone, telegram, or mail. Then "Edith" receives a cryptic letter from "Gerald", saying he is unable to leave the castle, unless there is a death, and is freeing "Kitty" of any obligation to their engagement.

"Kitty" will not accept the letter and its cryptic terms and decides to go to Scotland and Graven Castle.
When "Kitty" and "Aunt Edith" arrive, they are met with resentment from the servants and even from "Gerald". 

However, he agrees to let them spend that night at the castle, but they will be locked up for the night in their rooms that have walled over windows. Additionally, the two women are not to go near the tower room at any time. "Kitty" demands an explanation from "Gerald" over the treatment, but he refuses to answer, as "Aunt Edith" remembers their earlier conversation.

"Kitty" and "Aunt Edith" are concerned how "Gerald's" appearance in such a short time, seems to have aged him by years.

Later, "Kitty" hears something being dragged down the hallway past her room and onto the staircase leading to the lower floor. Now, fully awake, "Kitty" starts to explore her room and finds a hidden passageway and enters it. 

"Kitty" next finds a room with a broken window and looks down on the maze below, designed with a pool in the middle. 

The following day, "Kitty" demands that she and her aunt remain at Craven castle until "Edith" recuperates from a severe cold, but does not mention the secret passage and the strange webbed print. When they're alone, "Kitty" tells "Aunt Edith" about the passage and the strange print.


"Kitty" is convinced that "Gerald" is ill and over his objections, wants to invite their mutual friend "Dr. Dilling", his wife, and others of their acquaintance to Castle Craven. Neither "Gerald", or the butler "William" will post the letter "Kitty's" written, but she is able to get a gardener to do it for her.

While awaiting their friend's arrivals, "Kitty" goes out to the maze and enters, but a short way into it is stopped and turned back to the castle by an irritated "Gerald".


No, your eyes are not having problems, the following two shots, giving you a headache, were composed to give the viewer an artificial three-dimension effect.

Because of "Aunt Edith" and "Kitty's" concerns over "Gerald's" unusual behavior. "Edith" slips out of her bedroom to find out what's in the forbidden tower room. She enters and so does something else, "Edith" lets out a scream, faints, and comes too with both "Gerald" and "Kitty" looking on. He carries "Aunt Edith" back to her room, telling her that she just let her imagination have sway in the old castle.

The following morning, "Kitty" agrees to "Gerald's" original demand that she and "Aunt Edith" leave Craven Castle, but their friends now arrive. Reluctantly, with the same orders about being locked up at night, not leaving their rooms. or going to the tower, "Gerald MacTeam" gives them all rooms.

In their room, "Bert Dilling" informs his wife that there has not been a "MacTeam" wife in over 200-years, apparently, the line is kept going by the use of nephews like "Gerald".

After everyone has seemed to have gone to their rooms, "Edith" and "Kitty" slip out of their rooms and using a key stolen by "Aunt Edith", enter the forbidden tower room. There they find the book that "Gerald" seems obsessed in reading, but as they look at it, a sound is heard, and the two return to their bedrooms. Next, that same dragging sound on the steps that "Kitty" had heard before, goes past the women's rooms. They both leave them and follow "Gerald", "William", and other servants, carrying something large in a sheet, out of the house. As "Kitty" and "Edith" watch, the men and whatever is in the sheet enter the maze and the two women follow them into it.

Suddenly, a creature crawls toward "Edith", she faints from shock, as it scurries toward Craven Castle. "Gerald" and "Kitty" help "Aunt Edith" and the three re-enter the castle.

As reviewer Dave Sindelar and myself, feel the same about William Cameron Menzies "The Maze". l will let his April 4, 2002 review for the website, "Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings", speak for itself:
I have a lot of affection for this eerie horror/SF movie, though it took me a couple of viewings. The first time I saw the movie, I did get caught up in the eerie mood and the atmospheric sense of dread and tragedy that pervaded the castle, but the revelation concerning the nature of the true lord of the castle caused me to break out in laughter rather than to rear back in horror, and it ruined the movie for me. The second time I saw it, I was prepared, and was able to see beyond this flaw and appreciate how touching and sad the ending of the movie was. Part of the credit must go to Richard Carlson’s excellent performance, one of the best of his I’ve seen.

The Flaw:

All the fine acting and productions values of "The Maze" goes out the window, so to speak, with the clear appearance of "Sir Rodger MacTeam" and the explanation not only for "Gerald's" actions, but his uncle, and those before him for the last 200-years. Reacting to "Aunt Edith" and "Kitty", "Sir Rodger" returns to his tower room and jumps out of an open window to his death.


"Gerald" explains, see the book he was reading, that all humans go through all stages of evolution and "Sir Rodger" stopped development at the amphibian stage. As long as he survived, "Gerald" and the others before him, were the Baron of Craven Castle in name only. Now, with "Sir Rodger's" death, he, "William", and the others are free to live a normal life.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS released on October 17, 1956

William Cameron Menzies last motion picture was as the Associate Producer on Michael Todd's version of French author Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days".

The motion pictures four stars were David Niven, Mexican comedian Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, and Robert Newton. 

All the other stars on the above poster appeared for anywhere from a couple of minutes to a very small role. At the back of the program, below, that I paid one-dollar in 1956 for, is a list of all the non-stars in the movie appearing on the above poster.

Michal Todd, because the story starts in Victorian England, had each of these non-star's pictures placed in a typical period frame next to a mini-biography. As a result of the name of that particular Victorian Picture Frame, "Cameo", film critics referred to each actor as having a "Cameo Performance", and the term was created.

On March 5, 1957, at 60-years of age, William Cameron Menzies passed away from cancer.

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