Diary of a Madman (film)

Diary of a Madman is a 1963 American horror film directed by Reginald Le Borg and starring Vincent Price, Nancy Kovack, and Chris Warfield.

Diary of a Madman
Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed byReginald Le Borg
Produced byRobert E. Kent
Edward Small (uncredited)
Written byRobert E. Kent
Based onstories by Guy de Maupassant including The Horla
StarringVincent Price
Nancy Kovack
Lewis Martin
Music byRichard LaSalle
CinematographyEllis W. Carter
Edited byGrant Whytock
Robert Kent Productions/Admiral Pictures
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • March 6, 1963 (1963-03-06) (U.S.)
  • July 12, 1963 (1963-07-12) (Finland)
  • August 26, 1963 (1963-08-26) (Sweden)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States

The screenplay, written by producer Robert Kent, is an adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's two short stories "Le Horla" ("The Horla"), written in 1887, and "Un fou" ("The Diary of a Madman"), written in 1885.[1] Kent's rendition is notably divergent from the source material, especially in relation to the religious and moral themes of the film, which contradict not only those of the short story, but de Maupassant's as well. The distinctive manner in which the Horla in the story lives on water and milk is dispensed with in the movie.


Following the funeral of Simon Cordier (Vincent Price), a French magistrate and amateur sculptor, his secret diary is read out by Simon's pastor friend to a group of people gathered around the table, Simon's servants, and a police captain. The diary reveals that Simon has come into contact with a malevolent entity. The invisible yet corporeal being, called a horla, is capable of limited psychokinesis and complete mind control. It implied that Cordier's particular horla is one of a whole race of evil beings which devote themselves to driving humans insane.

Cordier first interacts with the horla when he meets a prisoner whom the entity drove to murder four people. The horla possesses the inmate and attempts to kill Cordier, who in self-defense accidentally kills the man. The magistrate inherits the prisoner's troubles as the horla turns its hauntings toward him.

As the horla begins to destroy Cordier's life, he fears he is going mad and seeks help from an alienist, who suggests that he take up a hobby. Cordier chooses to pick up his old interest in sculpture, meeting a model along the way. The model, Odette Malotte, is already married, but claims to love Cordier and he pledges his love to her in turn. The horla insists the model is not the charming jewel that Cordier sees, but instead a conniving gold-digger, and compels Cordier to treat her as such. This sets up a conflict in Cordier, that he might not be the astute judge of character that his title indicates.

In an episode of insanity, Cordier murders Odette with a knife. Her decapitated body is found in the river, but her husband (not Cordier) is blamed for the crime. As his and others' lives are put in jeopardy, he becomes convinced of the horla's existence and decides drastic measures are needed to end its evil. He lures the horla into his house at night. When his presence is felt, Simon hurls an oil lamp towards the curtains, setting the house ablaze. Simon succeeds in destroying the horla, but not without sacrificing himself as the house burns in flames.

The film concludes with the people seated round the table after reading Simon's diary. Some believe Simon was mad and that the horla does not exist, others are unsure and believe that the horla might have existed. The priest's opinion is that wherever evil exists, the horla exists.



The movie was originally entitled The Horla.[2] Filming started 18 July 1962.[3] Director Reginald Le Borg said he wanted the voice of the horla to come out distorted, but producer Edward Small wanted it to sound clear, which the director thought was a mistake.[4]


Home media

The film was released on DVD by Willette Acquisition Corp. on January 15, 2011.[5]


Critical reception for Diary of a Madman has been mixed. The New York Times gave the film a negative review, calling the film, "somewhat less than eye-opening".[1]


  1. "Movie Review - 'Diary of a Madman'". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  2. 'Brothers Grimm' Has World Preview: First Dramatic Production Shown on Cinerama Screen Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif.] 17 July 1962: C7.
  3. M.C.A. WILL DROP ITS TALENT OFFICE: Hollywood Giant Complying With Rule on Producers By MURRAY SCHUMACH Special to The New York Times. The New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, NY] 09 July 1962: 34.
  4. Article on Diary of a Madman at Turner Classic Movies accessed 9 June 2013
  5. "Diary of a Madman (1963) - Reginald Le Borg". AllMovie.com. AllMovie. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
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