The Masque of the Red Death (film, 2007)
Another favourite movie of mine. From Death Ray.
Film FOUR STARS
1964 / 89 mins / 15 / £9.99 / Out Now
Director: Roger Corman
Writer: Edgar Allan Poe (story), Charles Beaumont, R Wright Campbell
Starring: Vincent Price, Jane Asher
Death stalks the lands of renaissance Italy in Roger Corman’s best Edgar Allen Poe adaptation.
You can’t fault Vincent Price when it comes to oozing his way wickedly across the screen. He was Satan’s salesman – he had a voice made for delivering the tempting messages of evil; purringly seductive and treacly. In The Masque of the Red Death he puts his vocal gifts to excellent effect, delivering lines so juicy they’re bursting with malevolent promise.
Price plays Prospero, an Italian Renaissance prince who has dedicated his life to wickedness and to Satan. As plague stalks the land he locks himself away and loses himself in lavish parties, confident in his castle walls and the might of his infernal master to keep out the Red Death. As he attempts to break the will of the peasant girl Francesca (Jane Asher) and make her embrace evil, he plans a great masquerade for his guests, but it attracts a very unwelcome guest…
This is one of Corman’s standout films. The majority of Corman’s later features are shlocky B-pics, made in a hurry on unforgiving budgets. The Masque of the Red Death was made at a leisurely pace, has an excellent script, and benefits from the elegant cinematography of a young Nicolas Roeg.
The film has a couple of worthwhile subplots, one is borrowed from a second Poe story, ‘Hop-Frog’, and tells of the Prince’s dwarf jester enacting unpleasant revenge upon a nobleman (another ripe-voiced thespian – Patrick Magee) who struck his wife. He does this by tricking him into dress up as an ape for the ball, and then burns him alive in public, which is pretty horrible even by today’s standards. But it is Price’s character, and his philosophical ruminations on the nature of evil, that make the film.
This is a glorious feast for the eyes as well as the ears, the riotous (if unrealistic) costumes blazing with colour in this good quality widescreen transfer. If you’ve even a passing fondness for vintage horror, buy it now.
Did you know…?
Roger Corman made a sequence of eight Poe adaptations, all starring Price. These are regarded as some of Corman’s best movies. They included The fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. The Masque of the Red Death was the seventh such film. In 1989 Corman revisited the story, being producer on another adaptation starring Highlander TV star Adrian Paul. The tale, which was published back in 1842, has been adapted numerous times, including a disastrous modern-day version (1990) starring Sly Stallone’s less famous brother, Frank.