Movie Name: The Masque of the Red Death
Release Date(s): June 24, 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rating
Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) is a Satanist and a Sadist and he rules his land a the cost of his people. As the Red Death sweeps the land, Prospero plans a great party for the nobility. With a Christian villager named Francesca (Jane Asher) his prisoner, Prospero threatens to kill her father Lodovico (Nigel Green) or her love Gino (David Weston) if Francesca doesn’t give up God. The party is raging, but Death is something that no one can escape forever.
Directed by Roger Corman, The Masque of the Red Death is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” (originally published as “The Masque of the Red Death: A Fantasy”) in 1842. It is considered part of Corman’s eight Poe adaptation and follows The Haunted Palace in 1964. The story also contains part of Poe’s short story “Hop-Frog” from 1849.
“The Masque of the Red Death” is largely considered one of Poe’s better stories and one of Corman’s better films. Corman made his mark on film by making cheap and fast films (that did make money). The Masque of the Red Death feels like more of an exception to Corman’s style.
The plot of the movie is rather slow to get going, but it does pick up speed. The first part of the movie is a lot of set-up, but once the party commences, the plotlines come together. Corman worried that the storylines would be compared to Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and that he would be accused of copying it. It does hold a lot of similar themes and even some visuals (of course Bergman’s masterpiece still rules).
Price is good as the maniacal sadist Prospero who takes glee at his people’s torture. The movie turns into a duel role at the end and Price is good in both places. The supporting cast around Price doesn’t really stand out and they feel like typical horror cast with the exception of the characters involved in the subplot. Skip Martin plays the dwarf jester who gets the best of his master Patrick Magee and that storyline is as original as the main plot.
The visuals for the movie are quite strong with bright colors and panoramic views. Like Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, a lot of the cool imagery surrounds the figure of Death and that is why the second half of the film also picks up. It has a very “Hammer Films” style to the film.
The Masque of the Red Death is a slow burning horror film that does end up paying off. The movie is a Vincent Price classic and worth seeking out for fans of horror, Poe, and Vincent Price. Check out this Gothic horror film. Corman followed up this with his final Poe film The Tomb of Ligeia in 1965 and returned to The Masque of Red Death in 1989 when he produced a remake in 1989.