The Masque of the Red Death
The Pope Of Pop Cinema, Roger Corman, brings several classic Edgar Allan Poe tales to life in a 4K restoration of this complex and creepy cult classic.
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1842 short story of the same name (and drawing on other stories to flesh out the subplots), The Masque of the Red Death sees legendary independent cinema figure Roger Corman directing arguably his best of the eight Poe adaptations he made in his career.
Vincent Price plays the Satanic Prince Prospero – as in, he’s literally a Satanist – who rules his plague-ridden lands and castle with cruelty. After abducting a peasant girl, Francesca (Jane Asher), and burning her village to the ground, his life of debauchery takes an unexpected turn as the innocence of the young woman and the perils of the impending Red Death collide.
“If a God of love and life ever did exist, he is long since dead. Someone… something, rules in his place.” – Prospero
Tackling ideas of existentialism and evil all within the vessel of a Corman film seems like a lot, but it’s grounded by one of the best performances of Price’s significant career and a steadying supporting cast in Asher, David Weston, Hazel Court, Nigel Green and Skip Martin. The production design and art direction all help weave together a tapestry of a hyper-coloured horror that, despite its period setting, feels timeless in its dissection of humanity. The cinematography of veteran Nicolas Roeg was never better than when he was working in the genre space – see his directorial efforts The Witches (1990) and Don’t Look Now (1973) for evidence – and his sure hand as Director of Photography here helps bring one of Poe’s best screen adaptations to life… or death, rather.
– Maria Lewis, Assistant Film Curator
The Masque of the Red Death was restored in 2018 by The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Film Archive and the Film Foundation. The restoration was based on the 35mm original camera negative and original sound elements.
Missing censored scenes from the American release were replaced using shots from a 35mm Technicolor print from the Dante/Davison Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
Roger Corman on making The Masque of the Red Death, BFI, 15 Mar 2021
The Masque of the Red Death review – horribly apt Poe adaptation, Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 21 Jan 2021
How Roger Corman Finally Restored His Uncensored Vision for The Masque of the Red Death, Tony Sokol, Den of Geek, 29 Jan 2021