The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964)
Article #1720 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-29-2005
Posting Date: 4-28-2006
Directed by Roger Corman
Featuring Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher

When a devastating plague engulfs the land, the tyrannical Prince Prospero isolates himself along with his guests in his castle, where he engages in debauchery and Satanic rituals.

For those of you wondering what an art film from Roger Corman would be like, this should fill the bill. Quite frankly, I think it’s a stunning achievement; the sets are beautiful, the use of color is astounding, and there’s quite a bit of meditation on good, evil, life, death, and the numbing effect that a steady stream of cruelty can have on the eyes of the observers. I think, though, that one of the things I like best about this movie is that Corman doesn’t just repeat scenes and concepts from previous movies in the Poe series; Vincent Price has no dead wives to mourn, we see no pictures of relatives, and he ends the movie with a haunting and lyrical sequence with a procession of hooded figures rather than the usual conflagration (which he got out of the way at the beginning of the movie instead). Fine performances abound, particularly from Price and Hazel Court, who plans to become the bride of Satan by surviving her own sacrifice. Patrick Magee is also good as a cruel man who suffers the wrath of a dwarf, a plot sequence taken from Poe’s story “Hop-Toad”, a good choice to incorporate into this one. Still, it’s the beautiful wash of colors that really brings this movie to life. For my money, this is the best of Corman’s Poe movies.

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