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.
User Reviews: I’m a big fan of Vincent Price and all of his films are a must see for me. Normally, this endeavour leads me to see some of the finest horror films of the fifties, sixties and seventies; but every now and again, it will turn up a lesser entry in the great man’s filmography, and unfortunately – this is the case here. Based on stories by Guy de Maupassant, Diary of a Madman is a film without much to differentiate it from a number of similar films, and so to someone like me who has seen a great many horror movies; this one does fall a bit flat. Other bad elements include a rather long running time, which ensures that the flimsy plot always feel far too drawn out. The plot follows judge/sculptor Simon Cordier, a man who goes to visit a man put to death in his cell. He was put to death for various murders that he committed, and which he claims were under the influence of evil spirit Horla. However, after the death of the murderer; the evil spirit has nowhere to go, and so decides to take up residence inside the judge…
It’s a seriously good job that this film stars Vincent Price, as with almost anyone else in the lead role it would have been a complete dead loss. Price doesn’t excel himself here; but even an average Price performance is great to watch, and the great thespian continually saves the film from tedium. Price is the only real star of the film, and that’s not a problem in a way as he has more than enough to carry a film on his own; a film like this could really do with a few more distractions. The locations look nice, however, and the Technicolor cinematography excellently captures them. There’s not a great deal of actual horror in the film; sequences that see Vincent Price’s mirror reflection disappear, and a few where he has green eyes are about as horrific as it gets. The idea of an evil demon possessing someone isn’t exactly original, but the basics of the story get good handling here; so it’s a shame that the rest of the film wasn’t better. Overall, this has it’s moments I suppose; but aside from Price’s performance, there isn’t much to recommend it for. Interesting fact, though; a quote towards the start of the film was used by Rob Zombie in his song "The Return of the Phantom Stranger"!