The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Horror, Gothic Film, Supernatural Horror  |   Release Date - Jun 24, 1964 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - UK, USA  |  
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Roger Corman was nearing the end of his cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations when he made The Masque of the Red Death, the best and the grimmest film in the series; while such earlier Poe adaptations as Tales of Terror and The Raven seemed to show Corman getting bored with his own formula, turning Poe's stories into comedies, here he creates a dark, somber mood that's the perfect match for the story. Corman was always a capable visual stylist, but he crafted the best-looking film of his career with Nicolas Roeg as his cameraman, generating a powerful sense of both luxury and dread. While Vincent Price often approached lackluster material with a wink and a nudge, here he treats the screenplay by Charles Beaumont and Robert Wright Campbell with respect, and his Prince Prospero ranks with the most sinister performances of his career. The Prince's cold, blunt evil is never leavened with comic relief (his smile is more alarming than his scowl), and it seems nearly as disquieting to the cast as to the audience. Corman stalwart Hazel Court gives a strong performance that helped make her a favorite of horror buffs, and Jane Asher is excellent as the innocent sullied by Prospero's corruption. Like most of Corman's Poe adaptations, it doesn't always honor the source material (the original story is a bit sketchy to make much of a film on its own), but The Masque of the Red Death probably gets the spirit of Poe's original onto the screen better than any of Corman's other projects; anyone approaching this film for a campy laugh may be quite startled by what they find.