Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.
Quickie Review: Produced and directed by Roger Corman, adapted by the great Richard Matheson from the story by the great Edgar Allan Poe, these guys knew how to do atmospheric horror. Beautiful production design by Daniel Haller and cinematography by Floyd Crosby, great brooding music by Les Baxter, and a great cast that includes John Kerr, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, scream queen Barbara Steele, and the one and only Vincent Price. This is a Poe mystery done right.
Final grade: A
My Flickchart ranking: #438 (out of 3270, a relative 87/100)
The Masque of the Red Death (1964) Written by Charles Beaumont & R. Wright Campbell. Directed by Roger Corman. Starring Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston.
The personification of the Red Death is one of the story's most interesting elements.
The Masque of the Red Death is adapted from the short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe, with elements of another of Poe’s short stories, “Hop-Frog,” included as a subplot, starring Vincent Price as Prospero. This is my second film this month adapted from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, and though surprisingly well-directed in a classic 1960s style by Roger Corman, Masque falls far short of the quality of Stuart Gordon’s “The Black Cat.” (Interestingly, this is also the second film from this month’s viewings, after The Phantom of the Opera, to draw inspiration from Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.”)
The art direction and cinematography deliver designs and color schemes very pleasing to the eye–with “much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm,” as Poe himself wrote, and “much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might [excite] disgust.” In this way, the film captures the spirit of Poe’s vision. The script is well-written with plenty of memorable dialogue, and the cast, led by Price, is well to the task.
My issues with the film are largely with its supernatural embellishments upon the original story. In the film, Prospero is depicted as a satanist, and the plot elements involving satanism tend to become tiresome in places. Furthermore, the overly theatrical ending does not begin to rival the horrific impact of the climax of Poe’s original short story.