Faith and Madness – Craze (1974)

Jack Palance is a man who has played many a role over the course of his career, but it is usually those that require him to go a little bit further than the norm that really bring out the best in him, acting-wise that is. So it is with Craze, a film that finds him with a bit of a mania to him and perhaps just a little shy of psychotic as he worships an African statue, believing that it is bringing him good luck. Perhaps he is right as his antiques business is failing when he is first introduced, for after he starts sacrificing women to said god, his fortunes improve. Obviously, he cannot stop the craze-16killing because not only does the god demand it and his character Neal does not want the influx of cash to stop, but somewhere deep down, he actually enjoys it.

There have been many films over the years featuring men that are more than a little mad and for the most part, they rely upon their lead to really sell the movie to the audience. Such is the case here with Palance as he is front and center for nearly the entire running time of the picture and he gives it his all, making the viewer not only believe in his madness, but creating a bit of an uneasiness in those watching as well. Palance makes it look effortless playing the crazed killer, past experience probably making it a little easier and to an extent, he even seems a little exuberant doing so – channelling his inner John Carradine. Everything that Neal does is disturbing, from his treatment of women, the killing of them and how he eventually evolves into a man who is cold and calculating in his manic state, planning out his schemes in order to avoid getting caught by the local police. The further the man becomes unhinged, the greater the horror craze-17present within the film until that final climactic scene where all sense of normality and sanity has left and there is nothing left but his mania.

Working off of a script by Herman Cohen, Freddie Francis who was no stranger to horror having worked for Hammer and Amicus, would be the man to bring it to life. John Wilcox would work his magic on the cinematography and the movie would end up being a very atmospheric affair, a perfect melding that would highlight the insanity Palance would exhibit throughout. The one main weakness with the entire affair is the reliance put upon Palance, though having Julie Ege and Diana Dors present helped a little as well. With the plot being as thin as it is, even though the film looked good and was engaging enough, without Palance, it would have fallen apart with a weaker actor. Still, Francis was able to hold it all together and though it might not have been his best picture, it is still entertaining.

What is never made clear once this is all done and over with, is whether it really was Neal’s African god Chuka who brought him his good fortune or whether it was simply dumb luck? Whichever it was, one can only guess, but watching Palance trip all over himself, falling further and further into madness to please the wooden idol, ultimately made for a good time.

3.5 out of 5

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