Friday, 11 September 2015

The Masque of the Red Death
Dir: Roger Corman
1964's The Masque of the Red Death is the penultimate film in Roger Corman's series of adaptations based on the work of macabre romanticist Edgar Allen Poe. The film's script incorporates the story of the title as well as Poe's short story Hop-Frog and Torture by Hope that was written by French Symbolist Auguste Villiers de LiLsle-Adam. Anyone who thinks Corman is simply a B-movie director should look no further (and should also watch the excellent documentary Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel). The literature probably influenced the movement itself but I've always seen Corman's The Masque of the Red Death to be at the origins of Giallo. It's very hard not to compare the reds used here to the ones used frequently by Dario Argento. Once again, Corman can be considered a trend-setter and while his work could be compared to the Hammer Horrors of the time, he certainly made them up their game and a bit of a resurgence in the studio's production followed. However, as beautifully filmed and well written as it is, I wonder if it would have been as great without the brilliant Vince Price. His Devil-worshiping Prince Prospero is one of his best ever villains, a suitably chilling performance for a terrifying character. I can see why Corman was worried people would compare this film to Bergman's The Seventh Seal but he does keep to the source material, there are familiarities but both films are very different. The Seventh Seal Chess scene is one thing and the closing scene with the Red Death and the little Girl are quite another. A visually rich horror with awesome performances.

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