Director: Roger Corman
Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston, Nigel Green
Horror has a face
Prince Prospero regularly has big masquerade balls at his castle with his guests being selected people who are allowed to stay there and keep safe from the plague called “Red Death” that is haunting the country. Prospero is also a satanist so these festivities have a lot of abuse, humiliation and sadistic sexual acts.
He occasionally travels outside of his castle to invite new people into his demented society. In a dirty little village he comes across Gino who is not happy to see the Prince and gives him attitude. He takes Gino, his lovely girlfriend Francesca and her father Ludovico with him to the castle for his own amusement and tries to put Gino and Ludovico against each other in a fight for survival. However, death is creeping around the corner and Prospero’s plans and safety might not go as he hopes after all.
The Masque of the Red Death is based on two Edgar Allan Poe stories, the first has the same title as the movie and the second is called Hop-Frog. It’s the seventh of Roger Corman’s eight Poe adaptation and it is widely regarded as one of his absolute best films.
Roger Corman surrounded himself with talented people for this production, including Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, The Witches) who was hired as the cinematographer. Together they created a beautiful and stylish movie, filled with colors and almost going into a comic book look at times. They did an excellent job at creating a festive mood inside the castle, while showing dread and darkness outside of it. The play with colors plays a big deal in both the mood and also the story itself. I think those who think of Corman as a simple b-movie maker should see this and his other Poe movies to perhaps widen their thoughts on the guy, cause it’s obvious here that he is a talented guy.
The premise is set nicely for a fine performance by Vincent Price as Prince Prospero. Prospero is a rich, powerful, arrogant man with no respect for the life of anyone. He is so sinister in this evil role that it looks like he is enjoying himself almost too much. It’s an excellent performance by Price and a good example of how great of an actor he was. His co-stars also delivers good performances, although none are able to bring such intensity and scene stealing stuff like Price.
If I should say that there are any downsides to Masque, then I guess it does go a little campy at times and also it could have had some more focus on the story. All the characters have a lot of meaning to them and symbolic, but the story itself seems to be lacking something more that would make it more engaging for the viewer.
The Masque of the Red Death displays the talent that Roger Corman really had. They made a lot out of a little budget and created a beautiful movie and a nice adaptation from the legendary Edgar Allan Poe, well deserving the tag of being a classic horror movie.