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  Masque of the Red Death, The
Year: 1964
Director: Roger Corman
Stars: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, Patrick Magee, Skip Martin
Genre: Horror, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 5 votes)
Review: If Tomb Of Ligeia is the finest adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story, The Masque Of The Red Death surely earns the runners-up spot, sticking closely to its source material and coming up trumps in several departments.

Vincent Price excels as the deliciously evil Prince Prospero, who plays host to aristocratic hangers-on while the Red Death plague rages outside his castle walls. This is the real class war, where the poor and downtrodden fall victim to a terrible disease, with just a brave handful of their number willing to enter Prospero's exclusion zone for a possible showdown with 'Old Nick' himself.

Shot on leftover sets from Becket, Masque is hugely impressive on a visual level, with Nicolas Roeg's sumptuous photography laying out a steady stream of eye candy. MGM's 2002 DVD release (part of a double bill with The Premature Burial) treats Masque to an absolutely gorgeous transfer, with bags of detail in exterior scenes and luminous colours that turn Prospero's cursed abode into an Argentoesque labyrinthe of eye-popping beauty. Price's supporting cast also benefit from this pristine version: Hazel Court seems better than ever as a self-appointed handmaiden of Satan, while Patrick Magee will make your skin crawl like never before as his perverse courtier voices impure thoughts concerning tiny dancer Esmerelda. Corman's film was partly based on another Poe story titled "Hoptoad", and the script uses this to draw a moving relationship between Esmerelda and her friend, Hopfrog, played by the excellent Skip Martin. Skip is so good here, it's a source of genuine regret that his screen time is somewhat limited. The only other disappointment relates to Jane Asher, who rarely hits the right notes as a lover and a daughter in the depths of despair.

Watch out for a bloody raven attack; an alternative version of Russian Roulette (this one features poisonous daggers), and a Roger Corman interview after the main feature. Here, the great man gives us the Masque lowdown which includes a tongue-in-cheek riposte to all those comparisons with Bergman's The Seventh Seal.
Reviewer: Steve Langton

 

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Roger Corman  (1926 - )

Legendary American B-Movie producer and director who, from the fifties onwards, offered low budget thrills with economy and flair. Early films include It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors and X. The Intruder was a rare attempt at straightforward social comment.

Come the sixties, Corman found unexpected respectability when he adapted Edgar Allan Poe stories for the screen: House of Usher, Pit and The Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death and The Tomb of Ligeia among them, usually starring Vincent Price. He even tried his hand at counterculture films such as The Wild Angels, The Trip and Gas!, before turning to producing full time in the seventies.

Many notable talents have been given their break by Corman, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, Monte Hellman, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, James Cameron and Peter Bogdanovich. Corman returned to directing in 1990 with the disappointing Frankenstein Unbound.

 
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