Monday, July 23, 2012

Capsule Review: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

While Roger Corman's cycle of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations are rightfully lauded, it was the final two films - Masque of the Red Death and The Tomb of Ligeia - where Corman was finally able to match his ambitions with appropriately lush and impressive production values. Filming in England, Corman used sets left over from Becket and surrounded himself with top British talent - including young Cinematographer Nicolas Roeg, whose grasp of visuals match perfectly with the colorful, sometimes surreal production design. Vincent Price gives one of his best (and most restrained) performances as the brutal, Satanic Prince Prospero, who throws a massive party for local nobility at his castle while the countryside is ravaged by a plague. The portrayal of Satanism is rather shockingly nuanced, and there are wonderful supporting performances from Patrick Magee as the twisted Alfredo and Horror Hospital's Skip Martin as the diminutive Hop-Frog (a piece adapted from a different Poe short story). It's wonderfully entertaining, with a satisfying climax that appears to have been influenced by The Seventh Seal.

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