One cannot discuss any list in horror let alone the ABCs of Horror without mentioning possibly the three most legendary and influential names in genre, and those are Roger Corman, Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe. Now Corman, well known for his keen talents in making a buck on every production of his, and the genius of b-movies, however his work as director on Poe stories conversion to gothic tales of horror remain among his best work. While the debate rages on, and quite likely never to end, as which Corman’s Poe tale starring Price remains the most cherished and favorite one cannot deny this classic tale known as The Masque of the Red Death. The entire movie contains a heavy coating in gothic essence all displayed in top form, along with the sweeping cinematography all capturing the fictitious Red Death, overall though the film’s rich dialogue gives a qualified examination of the religion, but from a philosophical standpoint, which embroils audiences long after the film ends. In fact, it found itself on the gothic metal band Theatre of Tragedy’s Velvet Darkness They Fear album from 1996 namely the track “And When He Falleth” featuring voices of Vincent Price and Jane Asher.
The film obviously stars Vincent Price in one of his darker and more sinister roles, layering his character of Prince Prospero, a Satanist, and rule of his entitled lands with a thick creepy dripping voice owning each frame he in, and richly generating the entire story. Quickly the audience learns of Prospero’s thoroughly disrespect for the peasants on his land, the only comparison for those not witness this performance, think Braveheart (1995). In fact, an opening scene when his guards ride in on their thundering horse’s hooves, followed by Prospero’s carriage, almost crushes a child rescue by another serf. Soon he takes prisoners for his entertain and a peasant Christian girl Francesca for his future debauchery, while his men torch the village. They flee back to his castle, and bar the gates to keep the Red Death at bay, as if a plague respects a door, but for the movie recall the naïve manners for understanding diseases, nobility immune. As Price may dominate much of the screen, two others balance the scenes, first Francesca (Asher, who shows an innocent and pure of heart demeanor) and the Hammer studio fans Hazel Court as Juliana, who later pledges her love and soul to Lucifer and adoring herself with the blessed mark. The guests venture forth and test their convictions and strengths against the Red Death, pledging loyalty to Prospero, regardless of his sinful desires, gluttony and cruel mistreatments to everyone.
Aside from Poe’s great story, screenwriters Charles Beaumont (who worked previously on three other Corman films, but this was his last with him) and R. Wright Campbell (a long time writer with Roger) delivers a mixture of gothic and Shakespearean tone. In addition, the movie twines Poe’s other tale “Hop-Frog”, where exactly, which is something for the fans to discover for themselves. From this point, all the sets, including the assortment of colors throughout the film but especially the Satanic Chapel Room, continue to hold their incredible wonderment for the viewers all thanks to the legendary cinematographer Nicolas Roeg. Production started in England on November 11, 1963, and lasted 15 days for nearly the typical shooting schedule of a Corman movie however; it included delays, such a day to mourn the burial of President John F. Kennedy, on November 25, the original last day of filming.
A solid horror film set in the confines of a castle, with Price’s Satanist Prospero madly mocking the righteous and innocent Asher’s character, Francesca and tremendous solid storyline dealing with effective set construction and design, lasting the reign of years in the horror genre.