HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Burnt Orange Heresy, The
Craft Legacy, The
Eye of the Storm
Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands
Where No Vultures Fly
Come True
Kagemusha
Justine
Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché
Madchen in Uniform
Fire Will Come
Suspect
Jailbreak Pact
News of the World
Dementer
Beyond Clueless
Stylist, The
Sky is On Fire, The
Wrong Turn
In a Year with 13 Moons
Blush
Strange Affair of Uncle Harry, The
Sinners, The
Tammy and the T-Rex
Archenemy
Zappa
Mindwarp
State Secret
Mogul Mowgli
Owners, The
Twentieth Century, The
Story of Gilbert and Sullivan, The
What Lies Below
Greenland
Broil
Dead Pigs
Willy's Wonderland
It's in the Air
School's Out Forever
Breeder
   
 
Newest Articles
Chew Him Up and Spit Him Out: Romeo is Bleeding on Blu-ray
British Body Snatchers: They Came from Beyond Space on Blu-ray
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Maroc 7 and Invasion
Network Double Bills: The Best of Benny Hill and The Likely Lads
Network Double Bills: Some Girls Do and Deadlier Than the Male
Absolutely Bananas: Link on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Hawk the Slayer and The Medusa Touch
The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Ring of Spies
Chaney Chillers: Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Film Series on Blu-ray
Adelphi Extras: Stars in Your Eyes on Blu-ray
Toons for the Heads: Fantastic Planet and Adult Animation
Nature Girl: The New World on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Perfect Friday and Robbery
Network Double Bills: The House in Nightmare Park and The Man Who Haunted Himself
Newley Minted: The Strange World of Gurney Slade on Blu-ray
Bad Love: The Night Porter on Blu-ray
Brevity is the Soul of Weird: Short Sharp Shocks on Blu-ray
Get Your Ass to Mars: Total Recall on Blu-ray
Call the Professionals: Le Cercle Rouge on Blu-ray
When There's No More Room in Hell: Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray
The Butterfly Effect: Mothra on Blu-ray
   
 

The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray

  Pandemics are nothing new in the great scheme of things, but that does not mean they are any the less harrowing when they arrive, nor does it feel any the less apocalyptic to be in the middle of one unsure of how they will finally draw to an end. Therefore films like Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Masque of the Red Death could feel very timely when watched when there was any kind of global crisis underway, not simply a deadly virus holding the world in its grip. This was down to its depiction of a land gradually wasting away as more and more of its denizens were afflicted by the titular Red Death, a variation on the Black Death of many centuries ago.

This Red Death appears to cause its destruction by making the victims bleed to death through their skin, leading to the celebrated, queasy masque that climaxed the picture. Corman had of course been making Poe films ever since 1960's House of Usher which had transformed his career from the purveyor of cheapo horrors, sci-fi and Westerns that garnered some admiration in some quarters for their innovative nature. Allying himself to the great literary horror author's cause did wonders for his standing, and his bosses at American International Pictures were both pleased with the prestige and welcoming of the impressive profits they were bringing into their relatively low budget studio.

By the time 1964 arrived, Corman could afford to be even more ambitious, and effectively made his version of Ingmar Bergman's heavyweight arthouse classic The Seventh Seal, only with a more accessible style. Or was it? Some complained he had become pretentious here, had ideas above his station if he thought he could rival the Swedish master, but as time progressed The Masque of the Red Death's reputation rose to turn cult classic, and its high-falutin' take on the battle between life and death, God and Satan and humanity amongst itself was embraced by both horror fans and cineastes who appreciated the class and grim philosophy Corman brought to the olden tale.



His star was Vincent Price, as it had so often been with the Poes aside from The Premature Burial which had featured Ray Milland, and the actor had enjoyed a new lease of career life thanks to his chiller and villainous roles. Here he patently relished the chance to intellectualise his character Prince Prospero's evil, silkily purring his way through screenwriters Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell's dialogue as the plot developed the medieval era setting and its plot of the rich and privileged allowing the poor to die outside the castle gates, while they had a fine old time living it up in perfect decadence inside. And yet, as we have seen from the opening sequence, death does not discriminate when it comes to a plague.

This meant you were waiting for the disease to make its presence felt in the nobility, who believed such a demise was not for the likes of them; there had been some complaints - observations, anyway - that Corman's Poe movies featured not very much happening until the final reel when all Hell broke loose, relying as they did on Daniel Haller's production design for a lot of their atmosphere. As well as Price's vivid presence, of course, and some brash colour cinematography, which here was given to Nicolas Roeg to attend to, half a decade before he started his own directorial endeavours with another cult classic about the rich keeping the poor corrupted in an isolated building away from the danger outside, that being Performance.

The person being corrupted in this was teenage Jane Asher as Francesca, an innocent villager Prospero realises he can induct into the ways of debauchery by sheer force of persuasion and will. She protests his every move on her soul, and at least half of the tension stems from whether he can win her over or not, the other half from gradually twigging nobody, but nobody, is safe from the Red Death, be it embodied as a mysterious extra guest or as the actual effects of the virus. The seductive quality of evil was invoked by comparing it to the inexorable spread of the pandemic, with almost everyone succumbing eventually, a deeply cynical view of human nature suggesting we were all in thrall to our worst urges should our self-control be chipped away until there was nothing left, just as a disease will ruin our bodies.

It wasn't just Vincent and Jane in this, there were a bunch of Brit thespians to contend with too, the production having been filmed there to take advantage of the tax breaks that allowed the nation's film industry to flourish for a few years thanks to Hollywood money. Hazel Court offered perhaps her definitive horror performance as Juliana, Prospero's romantic partner giving herself to the Devil in return for power that never comes. Meanwhile Patrick Magee and dwarf actor Skip Martin acted out Poe's lesser story of Hop Toad and his revenge on the man who slighted him and his wife, which also slotted into the themes of how vulnerable we are to the allure of giving in to our worst impulses. And Shakespearean actor David Weston and rising star Nigel Green were present as Juliana's suitor and father respectively, forced to fight to see who would prevail, but among the few resisting Prospero's scheming. A film that has influenced anything from TV's The Prisoner to Sophie's Choice to Game of Thrones, The Masque of the Red Death could get stylised, even akin to experimental theatre in places, but its stark depiction of wickedness in a dying world fascinated long after.

[StudioCanal release this on a restored and uncut Blu-ray with the following special features...

NEW: Colour and Censorship in The Masque of The Red Death - Interview With Keith Johnston

NEW: Audio Commentary With Kim Newman and Sean Hogan

Audio Commentary with Roger Corman

Roger Corman: In Conversation with Kim Newman at The BFI

Roger Corman: Behind The Masque

Behind The Scenes Stills Gallery

Booklet written film presevationist at The Academy Tessa Idelwine

Artcards.]

Author: Graeme Clark.

 

< Back to Article list

Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Stately Wayne Manor
Enoch Sneed
  Geraint Morgan
   

 

Last Updated: 31 March, 2018