At some point during my daily teenage video store raiding, I made a point to see everything Vincent Price was in, but I somehow didn’t remember seeing The Masque of the Red Death.
And since this Roger Corman-directed film was on the list of “100 Horror Films to See Before You Die” at the Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film exhibit I visited, I decided to give it another look.
And it’s uh. Well, it’s very 1964, that’s for sure. The sets and characters are pretty close the Edgar Allan Poe story it’s based on, but the film ramps up the surreal aspects of the story by adding lots of trippy theatrics, tacky costumes, and lots of paintery-Hammer Horror’esque blood. Oh - and, satan worship. I don’t really remember that part being in Poe’s version.
Vincent Price plays Prince Prospero, a snooty nobleman who treats everyone below him as his slave, and throws giant parties at his castle wherein people have to act like animals, and “amuse” him by humiliating themselves and each other. He also has an alter dedicated to Satan, and is convinced his faithful service to the dark lord will protect him from dying, especially from his greatest fear “The Red Death”.
When the poor folks get this dreaded disease (which apparently causes you to bleed profusely out of every pore until you’re empty), he grabs the hottest chick in their village and brings her back to his castle to replace his super-uptight wife…until a mysterious masked figure shows up at his costume ball and kinda ruins everything.
There’s some great stuff on screen here, and definitely some moments of terror - but it was hard to get past the dated look and feel of the film - and I swear Price wasn’t really giving it his all. Most of his dialog seemed stilted and, frankly, like he was bored. Ultimately I think I would have enjoyed this movie a lot more if I’d had a few drinks first.
Still, it was interesting to see. I recommend to die-hards who absolutely need to see every Price or Corman film ever made.