The Masque of the Red Death (1964) - Roger Corman

Masque of the Red Death by Roger Corman is more of a work of art than a film. The movie has beautifully colored sets and perfectly constructed costumes; the acting from Vincent Price is superb and is equaled by the beautiful actress Jane Asher. However, the problems begin when we get into the storyline; the short story the film is based on by Edgar Allan Poe is, just that, short; and Roger Corman adds a few interweaving stories to drag the movie up to 89 minutes. He adds a certain flair to the movie and makes the story more his own and less of Poe's.

The story is about the satanic and tyrannical Prince Prospero who rules his land and its subjects through fear. When the Red Death breaks out the Prince holes up in his castle with his "friends" for a five year long party in order to avoid the infection, however the self imposed quarantine is only effective for so long. The movie depicts Prospero and his growing paranoia, shunning friends and actually killing some of them. The movie has a few interweaving, separate storylines so it took awhile for me to actually get interested in the narrative. Once it picks up the movie is really good, but it really drags in the beginning.

The acting in the movie is superb, but of course it would be when you have a veteran thespian actor like Vincent Price at your helm. The film also stars Jane Asher, Hazel Court, David Weston, and Patrick McGee. The acting in the movie is less hollywood-ish and more like a broadway production. I have no problems with that.

The art is what really struck me here. The sets are amazing. The use of color in the film sets the feeling for the scene; Corman doesn't just use color as a cheap way to appear artistic. One scene that stands out with me where the corporeal manifestation of the Red Death visits Prospero and he stands in a pitch black room with a red light shining on him. The shot is so powerful it is actually kind of frightening. If you want to see how to use a camera to show pure art you should see this movie.

 As I mentioned before the story is the only real drawback, I don't really like when someone takes a short story and adds his/her own content to fill up the remaining time. The interesting thing here is that Corman uses other Poe tales to fill up the movie and ties them all together. The downside is that there is a lot of dragging scenes that rely on the actors. This is one of Vincent Prices finer roles and if you are a fan of the actor then you should pick this up. If you are looking for a smart movie to impress a girl on a date night then you should pass this up, your gonna have her yawning.

There is no other god! Satan killed him!
  • Paul McCartney was on set for some of the filming. 
  • The film was shot in the UK to take advantage of their laws. 
  • The film used over two miles of sets that filled three sound stages.