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Masque Of The Red Death
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While the plague rages throughout Europe, sadistic Italian prince Prospero (Vincent Price) dallies with devil worship. To entertain his fellow Satanists, Prospero hosts a lavish ball in the confines of his castle, but the wanton revelries sour when an uninvited guest arrives - Death himself!
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Set in Medieval Italy, Vincent Price brilliantly portrays the evil Satanist Prince Prospero living a wealthy life of depravity and debauchery alongside his courtiers. Nearby in the village where he has dominion the God - fearing villagers are struggling to make a living and falling as victims to the deadly plague known as the 'red death,' that is sweeping the whole region.
The Masque of the Red Death is excellent, eerie, vivid and atmospheric, a very good film indeed. Out of all Vincent Price's collaborations with Roger Corman I found The Masque of the Red Death to be one of the most macabre films I have ever seen.
There are good supporting performances from the cast and a screen appearance from a young Jane Asher as Francesca, the beautiful village girl, God - fearing and a Christian who finds herself plunged into the evil court of Prince Prospero.
Roger Corman vividly portrays in this film the struggles between wealth vs poverty, evil vs good, death vs the gift of life. See this film I highly recommend it!
The picture is sharp and crisp with deep blacks and brilliant whites and a wonderfully deep colour Pallette There is such a fine layer of filmic grain that it is almost non existant. Sound too is excellent and unlike the American Blu Ray which is Region A locked..this one is Region Free. RECOMMENDED - AS IS THE SELLER WHO GOT DISC TO ME WITHIN 2 DAYS. VERY IMPRESSED
And this is the beauty of Mr Price's performance; beneath the silky, insinuating charm, the capricious power of life and death, the utter indifference to ties of friendship and loyalty - Prospero is bored - it takes a while to notice it, but this certain, erudite, untrammelled Renaissance man is hollow at the core - his service to Satan has permanently disabled his soul, and he knows it - the film could even be described as a vivid delineation of what the soul is.
Which is pretty big potatoes for a Technicolor horror flick from the early 1960s, whose historical credibility might be hooted in the street; helmets, costumes, armaments and music are all set at jangling, period variance, but that's hardly the point; this piece of Poe pits (and probably pendulums) the amorality of Machiavelli against Christian morality, and the ultimate reality of death, inviting us to watch which one comes off best. It's a close run thing.
It's nicely acted, but you'd expect that; Price plays to the gallery to great effect throughout, but Jane Asher delivers winning ginger yumminess as well as a fine performance of a woman whose soul is at hazard - and she nearly loses it - and David Weston is agreeably heroic. The big supporting laurels however are for John Westbrook as the eponymous Death - Prospero's nemesis - it is a beautifully understated slice of utterly implacable menace - the tone never wavers, never higher nor lower, never excited nor sad, just maintains the same utterly remorseless calm. From the very first scene, where Death turns a white rose blood red and gives it to a crone along with a completely ambivalent promise of 'deliverance', it is clear that anyone fool enough to fool around with him will come off a very poor second best. It cannot end well for Prospero, but the interest lies not in if he will fall, but how, and will he succeed in dragging Francesca (Miss Asher) down with him. What's clear is that, by the time of the masque, they have fallen in love with each other; Francesca is ultimately prepared to surrender her soul for him, and he discovers sufficient compassion to plead for her life, however he knows by then that his own doom is sealed.
The main sub plots concern Prospero's former favourite, Juliana, and his current chief toady, Alfredo; Hazel Court is all icy jealousy as the former, while Patrick McGee is all slimy salacity as the latter - each is destroyed by ambition; Juliana attempts to rise higher in Satan's affections than Prospero, but miscalculates and ends up being pecked to death by a raven; Alfredo earns the enmity of crafty dwarf, Hop Toad who, in a brilliantly contrived piece of horror, cons him into wearing a gorilla costume, hangs him from a chandelier and sets fire to him with brandy (how little Hop Toad manages to haul up a man at least three times his weight is anybody's guess) and this rich dollop of Grand Guignol acts as curtain-raiser to the climactic masque that Death joins in with, and Prospero's world falls in around him as the sanguine body count escalates. In the end the survivors number just six.
The film ends with about eight different coloured deaths discussing their respective days' work, and this could very easily be ludicrous, but it's not - after a narrative that lards Poe with Brueghel peasantry and Bosch court, it makes perfect sense - what we've been watching barely pretends to Naturalism, rather it's an allegory for the search for fulfilment with Prospero caught in a Faustian con (Satan was *never* going to come across with his side of the deal was he?) and it may be this unreality that detracts from the horror that the genre really requires.
Possibly. But the factor that makes this film so damn good is the eloquence and rationality of Mr Price's performance; it is rare to see evil that is so poised, so erudite, and never banal; in terms of the arguments between good and evil, Prospero is always ahead on points, and in the end, it's not 'good' that catches up with him but inevitable death.
What Mr Corman thought he was doing fifteen years later, when he re-made the film, I do not know.