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

Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court and Jane Asher
Optimum Classic
RRP: 9.99
Certificate: 15
Available 30 April 2007

An elderly peasant woman meets a strange red-robed figure who tells her that her village's salvation from tyranny is at hand. When the cruel Prince Prospero arrives at the village to gloat about an extravagant masque ball for local dignitaries he finds the elderly woman suffering from the Red Death, a virulent plague. Taking an innocent young woman and, to ensure her co-operation, her father and betrothed too, he orders the village torched. The nobles can not leave the castle for fear of the Red Death, so Prospero is free to have a little fun at their expense. When the mysterious red-robed figure is seen at the masque, Prospero believes it to be his master, Satan. But not even Prospero is safe from the hands of the Red Death and the macabre dance of death that follows...

Aside from Witchfinder General, this is probably one of the best suited outlets for Vincent Price's talents. He seemed to revel in this sort of character and was well-suited to the gentlemanly human monster.

The Masque of the Red Death, from 1964, is based on the Edgar Allen Poe classic tale, and also incorporates elements of several other stories from the maestro's impressive cannon. There is also a homage to The Seventh Seal.

It is one of the better examples of director Roger Corman's film work, with camera work and sets being particularly impressive. The epilogue scene wherein the red-robed figure meets-up with his brethren (each in a different colour robe and representing individual diseases) is a nice touch - especially with the untouched little girl playing nearby.

It's great to see minor accidents or mistakes in films, and I couldn't help noticing the young peasant woman's dress strap coming unfastened as she is sent to the battlements. Moments like this add a little something to certain films.

Masque will be of interest to Price fans and followers of horror from an earlier (perhaps more innocent) age, although there are a handful of nasty moments. It is worth seeing individually, but will prove much more appealing when packaged in a set.

Ty Power

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