Saturday, June 4, 2011

CORMANIA 2011 #4 - The Masque of the Red Death

5:35pm - The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Our King's role: Director and producer
Cast: Vincent Price (PIT AND THE PENDULUM), Hazel Court (DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS), Nigel Green (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS), Patrick Magee (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE), Jane Asher (ALFIE)

Plot: A faceless stranger in a red hood warns of impeding doom for an English county, which is ruled by the evil Prince Prospero. While on an outing, Prospero kidnaps a village girl (Asher) along with her lover (David Weston) and father (Green). As Prospero becomes enamoured with his new lady friend, she soon discovers there is more to his evil than it would appear.
He is a Satan worshipper who holds ritualistic ceremonies in his castle. Gathering his "friends" at his castle to offer them sanctuary from the Red Death, Prospero holds a midnight masquerade ball. But who is the stranger in the red hood who shows up? Is he the devil, or something far more sinister?

- Full disclosure: I've seen this movie before, but it's been at least 10 years since I've watched it.
- Corman moved production of his movies to England starting with this one, and the difference in sets is noticeable. They're much more extravagant than in his previous Edgar Allen Poe adaptions.
- Ah Vincent Price. My favourite actor ever. No one else compares.
- Price is fantastic here as the utterly decadent and evil Prince Prospero, who makes other suffer to amuse himself, like making his guests act like various barnyard animals.
- I do love a good black and white flick, but the colours Corman employs here are exquisite.
- There's satanic shenanigans afoot!
- A girl wandering around a darkened mansion/castle at night. Corman mastered these shots to a fine art time and time again.
- Crossbow bolt to the throat. Nice.
- I think the subplot about Hop Toad the midget is from a separate Poe story, Hop Frog.
- Hazel Court self-branding her breast with an upside down cross mark must have been quite edgy for its time.
- You can't say Prospero's parties aren't at least entertaining. That cat sure knows how to put on a shindig.
- There's that evil Vincent Price laugh echoing through the night. Even those who've never seen one of his movies will be familiar with it, thanks to Michael Jackson's Thriller.
- It's racial stereotype central during Court's dream(?) sacrifice scene. Jumping African native? Check. Bearded Chinese guy? Check. Stiff-necked Egyptian? Check.
- A double-bladed axe pendulum? Hmmm, I feel like I've seen that somewhere before.
- I guess they couldn't find a midget girl to play the dancer? That's clearly a little girl with an overdubbed adult's voice.
- Morale of the subplot: Don't mess with a midget's girl.
- The Dance of the Red Death reminds me of that annual event in Italy where people throw tomatoes at each other.

Overall thoughts: Roger Corman's Poe adaptions were the peak of his creative output, as far as I'm concerned. The Masque of the Red Death is probably my second favourite of them, after Pit and the Pendulum, and right up there among my top 5 Vincent Price movies of all time. Price's performance is, as always, top notch. I think Prospero may be the most out-and-out evil of all the characters he has played. I can't speak highly enough of the lavish sets and the use of colours. This movie is a feast for the eyes and a must see for any fan of cinema.

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