Salvador Dalí’s Maze


Maurice Yves Sandoz (1892–1958) was a Swiss composer and writer who published a handful of works of fantastic fiction, none of which are especially well-known today. One of these, a novel entitled Le Labyrinthe (1945), will be familiar to most people via the film version directed by William Cameron Menzies in 1953, Menzies’ final effort in a chequered directing career. The Maze is a low-budget horror film that was shot in 3-D, and which works well for the most part, at least until its rather absurd ending. I hadn’t heard about the novel until a recent conversation with the knowledgeable Mr TjZ during which he mentioned that Salvador Dalí had illustrated Sandoz’s novel when it was republished by Doubleday, Doran in 1945. Dalí illustrated a number of novels throughout his career but The Maze is one of the few original works (as opposed to a reprint of a classic), the fruit of Sandoz’s social connections with the art world. 1945 was the year that Dalí’s brand of Surrealism was fully embraced by America—he was working on Hitchcock’s Spellbound at this time—so it’s surprising that Sandoz’s novel isn’t better known. Dalí also provided illustrations for two collections of Sandoz’s short stories: Fantastic Memories (1944) and On the Verge (1950).


I haven’t seen a copy of the novel so the illustrations here are no doubt wrongly sequenced. Secondhand copies of the Dalí Sandoz titles aren’t as expensive as you’d imagine so I’m tempted to track down copies. I’m also curious to know how the novel compares to the film. Thanks to TjZ for the tip!

(And having written the above, I notice from my tags for the post that I’d linked to copies of the short story illustrations in a weekend posting several years ago. Among other things, this blog is a useful memory jolt. But The Maze was definitely news.)




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The Thief of Bagdad


It’s the poster for the 1924 film version we’re concerning ourselves with here, not the more popular 1940 adaptation directed by Michael Powell. Both films are great but I have a special affection for Raoul Walsh’s silent version and this poster design has long been a favourite for the way it manages to condense the film’s blend of storybook graphics and Art Deco exotica. I’d wondered for years who was responsible for this design; according to various poster sites it’s the work of the film’s art director Anton Grot (1884–1974). This is one of several variations (there another here and one here) and there’s also a less interesting design which is far more typical of the period.

I often recommend the 1924 Thief of Bagdad as an introduction to silent cinema, especially if you can find a decent print. Fairbanks’ production had William Cameron Menzies as production designer and his sets are enormous Arabian Nights confections replete with minarets, onion domes and filigree screens like something from an Edmund Dulac illustration. Fairbanks gives a tremendously athletic performance and the marvellous Anna May Wong plays a Mongolian slave girl. There’s a lengthy description of the film’s production here while you can find a copy of the entire film at the Internet Archive although it really ought to be seen in a version which isn’t blighted by a company logo throughout.

Previously on { feuilleton }
More Arabian Nights
Edward William Lane’s Arabian Nights Entertainments
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé
Metropolis posters