The evil Prince Prospero is riding through the Catania village when he sees that the peasants are dying of Red Death plague. Prospero asks to burn down the village and he is offended by the villagers Gino and his father-in-law Ludovico. He decides to kill them, but Gino's wife, the young and beautiful Francesca, begs for the lives of her husband and her father and Prospero brings them alive to his castle expecting to corrupt Francesca. Propero worships Satan and invites his noble friends to stay in his castle that is a shelter of depravity against the plague. When Prospero invites his guests to attend a masked ball, he sees a red hooded stranger and he believes that Satan himself has attended his party. But soon he learns who his mysterious guest is. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A wonderful blend of surreal imagery and pure terror
For this entry in his Poe series, Roger Corman decided to move the production to England. Not for artistic reasons, just because films made in England at that time got a government subsidy, and thus keeping his costs down. That's what I love about Corman - he brings a whole new meaning to the term 'penny pinching', and on the whole he has proved to cinema audiences the world over that great films don't need massive budgets and can excel on a shoestring. The Masque of the Red Death is another triumph over low budget, and sees horror's premier team of Vincent Price, Roger Corman and, of course, Edgar Allen Poe team up to great effect once again. This Poe story follows the evil Prince Prospero, a man who believes that his master, the Lord of Flies (Satan to you and me), will grant him and his friends that are taking refuge in his castle safety from the disease known as the 'red death' that is laying waste to the surrounding towns and villages.
This is a very different production to the earlier films in Corman's Poe cycle. The sets are much more lavish and on the whole, it's on a much larger scale. This also marks something of a departure for the Poe protagonist. As usual, he's portrayed by Vincent Price (the finest horror actor to ever live) but unlike the parts he'd played for Corman so far, this character is a strong and malicious presence, and therefore a far cry from the more pathetic characters he played films like 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and 'The Pit and the Pendulum'. As usual, however, Price approaches this role with relish and completely makes it his own. His malicious tone fits the Prince Prospero character like a glove, and you cannot imagine anyone but Price in the role. The character is a typical Poe labyrinth and helps to maintain the interest and malicious intent that the film presents for it's running time.
The story is one of absolute terror, and through Corman's surreal use of colours and atmosphere, he makes the best of it and the result is a truly terrifying tale of faith, disease and death. There are many macabre events in the film, but none of them go over the top with gore, nor are they especially sleazy. The film is consistent throughout, and it's obvious that everyone involved knew exactly what they wanted to achieve with it. The story revolves around having faith, whether it be faith in God or indeed in the Devil. The Masque of the Red Death professes that every man creates his own hell, and the way that is presented on screen is magnificent, just like the rest of this great film.
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