THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964)
posted 00/00/2012

Directed by:
Roger Corman

Starring:
Vincent Price ... Prince Prospero
Hazel Court ... Juliana
Jane Asher ... Francesca
David Weston ... Gino

Country: USA, UK
Runtime: 89 min
       
         
     

Roger Corman has never been called a master filmmaker. This is due in part to his early schlock work, which I love and appreciate, but the world at large has thumbed its nose at. That's a shame because there is a lot to love in films like Attack of the Crab Monsters and Not of this Earth. But when you discuss the myriad Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that Corman produced and directed, the tone of the conversation turns a bit more serious and one film jumps to mind...this is the film I will discuss in brief here.

The worldly Vincent Price plays Prince Prospero, the vicious and selfish ruler of a small fiefdom somewhere in a bleak European landscape. His people die of starvation while he and his friends delight in excess and the pleasures of the flesh. Prospero and his wife Juliana (played by the buxom Hazel Court, The Raven) are also devil worshipers, which plays a big part in the story, when a red-hooded stranger shows up in the village and brings the red death. What is the red death? Well, it's basically a plague that turns the dead bright red. Prospero and his amoral lot of malcontent friends hideout in his castle, where he offers the protection of his master (the devil), but not even the devil can stop the vengeance of the red death.

There's a bit more plot and characters I could speak about, but I'd like to leave that for you to discover. I'd really much rather spend my review dissecting the merits of this picture. I'll be honest that the first time I saw this movie I didn't like it. In fact, I hated it. You Poe/Corman fans are probably rolling in your premature graves now, but let me explain. I watched it at home as part of a massive Corman-a-thon, and when I hit this movie I was already worn out and when the slower sequences took over I just lost interest. A spent a good five years wondering why others were stating that this movie was the best in the franchise, when I felt it was the longest, and most boring entry that ran low on plot and filled in the blanks with padding and brash colors. How wrong I was my friends!

I got the chance to watch this on the big screen, with my pal and co-creator Jorge, at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica one Halloween, and I fell instantly in love with it. I relished the brilliant color scheme and shooting style of cinematographer, and future brilliant filmmaker, Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout, The Witches, Don't Look Now). I enjoyed, as always, the hammy performance by Vincent Price, but noticed the wonderful work done by the other members in the cast including Miss Court, and the character actor Patrick Magee, who is in one of my favorite films, Séance On A Wet Afternoon. Also the film wasn't as padded to the hilt as I remembered. There is plenty of plot within the context of a blight coming to rid the world of evil, like the floods wiping out the devils of the world, only to spare the good, which is exactly what happens in this film. Let me tell you, that is pretty heavy stuff for a Corman picture, and stands as a testament to the kind of filmmaker he really was.

Shot in London during five weeks, a luxurious schedule compared to the other films in the Poe series which were completed in around 3 weeks, this film has an opulent and big-budget feel. Corman was originally planning to make this his 2nd Poe picture, but felt the movie was very similar to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), and it kind of is, but Corman manages magic with his and Roeg's manipulation of color, making the films close on the surface, but worlds apart in texture. This is not a movie for people who don't love costume-drama horror films or Hammer Horror pictures. It's a visually appealing and dazzling piece of filmmaking and one that should be remembered and watched (and re-watched) for as long as Cinephiles exist.

- Jose Prendes

 

comments powered by Disqus

Strictlysplatter.com is owned and operated by Jorge Antonio Lopez. All original content is Copyrighted © 2008 by its respective author(s). All Image files
are used in accordance with Fair Use, and are property of the film copyright holders.