American International Pictures

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

Rating: 68

Tags: Satan - Plague - Classic - Paranoia
Director: Roger Corman
Writer: Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell
Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, David Weston, and Jane Asher
Country: UK/USA
MPAA Rating: NR
Studio: American International Pictures, Alta Vista Productions
Budget: ???
Release: June 24th 1964
Did Ya Know: Jane Asher asked Roger Corman if a friend could visit the set and join them for lunch. She explained that her friend was a musician who was about to do his first gig in London that night. At the end of lunch, Corman wished him good luck with his concert. Roger Corman had never heard of Paul McCartney until he read of the concert's success in the next day's newspapers.

Masque-of-the-Red-Death-1964-poster.jpg

This is a dramatic horror movie based on the 1842 classic tale from acclaimed author, Edgar Allan Poe. It’s the first UK production for American film-maker, Roger Corman. The movie stars Vincent Price (also in his first UK role), Hazel Court, David Weston, and Jane Asher. It was released by American International Pictures on June 24th, 1964 to decent reviews.

Synopsis

The story follows the evil Prince Prospero, who has learned of the Red Death plague ravaging his town. Instead of helping his people, he massacres them, taking hostage a young girl, Francesca. The evil prince also takes prisoner, her father and lover. It is revealed that Prince Prospero is a follower of Satan, and believes that his master's evil magic will keep his followers and himself safe from the Red Death inside of his castle walls. That is until a strange red hooded figure crashes one of Prospero’s lavish parties.

Analysis

This is a work of art. Beautifully colored sets and perfectly constructed costumes are just a few of the highlights. It feels like a Broadway play rather than a big Hollywood feature. The use of bright and vibrant shots are not just a cheap way to appear artistic. It’s a tactfully used tool that Corman masterfully utilizes. One scene that stands out shows the corporeal manifestation of the Red Death visiting Prospero. They stand in a pitch black room with a red light shining on the spirit. The shot is so powerful it is actually kind of frightening.

The acting in the movie is superb, but of course it would be when you have a veteran, thespian like Vincent Leonard Price. This is definitely his most sinister role. It reminds me of his role in the 1939 film, Tower of London. Jane Asher was also fantastic. I thought that she showed so much genuine emotion as Francesca.

The writing is great thanks to Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell. We get to see Prince Prospero’s growing paranoia inside of his castle walls. He shuns friends and ends up killing some of them too. It’s a suspenseful ride that will actually keep you on the edge of your seat. A fine tale only made better with Corman at the helm.

Overall

I found this take on the classic tale to be pretty interesting. It’s a dark and rich story that's enhanced with tremendous visuals. Some scenes are pretty slow and boring. But Vincent Price saves it most of the time.. If you fancy his work, then I suggest you take a look at this one. It’s worth picking up on Blu Ray if you can find it. The picture is fantastic. It’s a B-Movie classic that deserves to be on any movie-buff’s shelves.