The Mad Room

The Mad Room is a 1969 American horror drama film directed by Bernard Girard, and starring Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters, Skip Ward, Carole Cole, Severn Darden, Beverly Garland, Michael Burns, and Barbara Sammeth. It is a loose remake of the 1941 film Ladies in Retirement, itself adapted from a 1940 play of the same title written by Reginald Denham and Edward Percy.[1]

The Mad Room
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBernard Girard
Produced byNorman Maurer
Written byBernard Girard
A. Martin Zweiback
Screenplay byGarrett Fort
Reginald Denham
Based onplay Ladies in Retirement written by Reginald Denham
Edward Percy
StarringStella Stevens
Shelley Winters
Skip Ward
Carole Cole
Severn Darden
Beverly Garland
Michael Burns
Barbara Sammeth
Music byDave Grusin
CinematographyHarry Stradling Jr.
Edited byPat Somerset
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • May 1, 1969 (1969-05-01)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was released by Columbia Pictures on May 1, 1969.[2][3][4]


Ellen Hardy, working as a live-in assistant to wealthy widow Mrs. Armstrong, gets a call from the mental institution where her younger brother George and sister Mandy have been living since they were accused of killing their parents when they were six and four years old. George is turning 18, and rather than send him and Mandy to an adult facility, Ellen takes them back to live with her in Mrs. Armstrong's large house. Afraid of what their reception would be if the others knew the truth, Ellen conceals their dangerous history.

Upon arriving at the house, Mandy insists that she and George have a designated "mad room," a place where they can go to be alone when they are frustrated. Ellen reluctantly agrees to give them access to the former Mr. Armstrong's study despite the fact that Mrs. Armstrong refuses to let anyone in it. One night Mrs. Armstrong discovers Mandy in the study, and confronts Ellen about her mounting suspicion that they are keeping something from her. While Mandy and George eavesdrop from outside the room, Ellen finally breaks down under her questioning and tells Mrs. Armstrong about their grim childhood and the suspicion that either George, Mandy or the both of them had killed their parents with a butcher knife. Mrs. Armstrong explains to Ellen that she can't keep the children at the house anymore, and goes to bed frightened.

The following morning, Ellen screams when she discovers Mrs. Armstrong dead in the "mad room," slashed by a saber. Mandy and George run to the scene, and both scream in horror and accuse each other of being the murderer. Ellen quickly turns into action and insists that they tell the rest of the staff that Mrs. Armstrong has gone away on business unexpectedly to cover-up the crime. After another incident at the house, George and Mandy begin to find Ellen's ability to lie unsettling and suspect her of killing Mrs. Armstrong as well as their parents.

Ellen's nerves begin to fray, and tries to convince her fiance Sam, the stepson of Mrs. Armstrong, that they should send the children away. She finally snaps after seeing that the family dog has discovered the dismembered body of Mrs. Armstrong and has brought a single hand out into the yard. She kills the dog and in the final scene is discovered by Sam, kneeling in the basement by the furnace as she once did the night she murdered her parents.



Home media

The Mad Room was released for the first time on DVD by SPHE on March 4, 2011.[5]


Critical response for The Mad Room has been mixed to negative. Variety noted the acting, and scenery as being the better part of the film, but criticized the film's weak story, predictable plot twist, and tendency towards melodrama.[6] Time Out called the film "disastrously renovated for contemporary consumption", and noted the film as being routine.[7]

Alternately, Howard Thompson of The New York Times gave the film a positive review. Thompson praised the film for its acting, direction, tension, and cinematography; calling it "a fine suspense-shocker"[8] Paul Mavis from DVD Talk awarded the film 3.5 out of 5 stars writing, "Not "horrific" by today's standards, but acceptably frightening and strange, with some nice direction and strong performances by the cast, particularly the underrated Stella Stevens. Fans of the two stars, and appreciators of the genre from this time period, will certainly enjoy this."[9]


  2. "The Mad Room". Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  3. "The Mad Room". AllMovie. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  4. "The Mad Room". Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  5. " The Mad Room: Bernard Girard, Michael Burns, Carol Cole, Severn Darden, Beverly Garland, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters: Movies & TV". Amazon. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  6. "The Mad Room – Variety". Variety Staff. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  7. "The Mad Room, directed by Bernard Girard". Time Time Out Staff. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  8. Thompson, Howard. "Tense 'Mad Room' - The New York Times". Howard Thompson. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  9. Mavis, Paul. "The Mad Room (Columbia Classics) : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". DVD Paul Mavis. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
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