Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reviews of the Poe Films

I have watched all of the Poe films in full! It'll take long to review them all, but I have a good method...This post was also posted on Red Death Productions (with another comment. It was an "Usher Twins Double Post."). Happy New Year!


Edgar Allan Poe's most famous story is given wonderful treatment in this dreary, nightmarish film. Myrna Fahey is lovely and creepy as Madeline, Mark Damon is wonderful as our dashing hero, and Vincent Price delivers a classic performance. An amazing film and one of the best in the cycle. A surprisingly faithful film, Poe-fans will adore House of Usher.


The best of the Poe-Price-Corman films (with The Masque of the Red Death), this film is perfect in every way. It is the best possible Halloween film, and Price delivers an amazing performance as the crazed son of an Inquisitor. Plot twists, enormous set pieces, amazing acting, and that final shot make this one of the best movies I have ever seen and one I will cherish forever. The quintessential film for...well, everybody!


Infamous for being the only in the Poe Cycle not to star Vincent Price, this unjustly criticized film is very well done. Slower-paced than the rest of the series, The Premature Burial has a wonderful performance from Ray Milland (of Dial M for Murder) and a surprisingly good performance by Hazel Court (she was iffy in Masque of the Red Death). Eerie sets, wonderful direction, and a classic script by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell make this a truly good film. Yes, we all would like to see Price, but Milland is great too!


[There are three pictures because there are three segments.]
Instead of taking a short story and making it 80 minutes, Roger Corman and Richard Matheson decided to make three vignettes based on Poe. The first one, Morella, is the poorest (and the acting of Maggie Pierce? So melodramatic!). The second, The Black Cat (which is combined with The Cask of Amontillado), is comedic and very good (it also features Peter Lorre!). The finale, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, features Basil Rathbone as a devilish hypnotist. The best of the three segments!


Taking a comedic turn that bears no resemblance to the Poe story (except one awful gag), The Raven is an outrageous spin on the poem, featuring Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff. A kind-of funny film, it details the battle between three sorcerers - Bedlow (Lorre), Craven (Price), and Scarabus (Karloff). It DOES feature a pretty funny performance by Hazel Court as Lenore. Good acting and a light-hearted script makes this film rather enjoyable.


Actually based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward with the title of a Poe poem, The Haunted Palace is a wonderfully creepy film. There is a rather...inappropriate scene: Vincent Price's character, Charles Dexter Ward possessed by Joseph Curwen, rapes his wife Ann (Deborah Paget). A great script, astounding direction, great production design, and an amazing score by Ronald Stein makes this a truly memorable film (YES, I know I've said that a lot!).


The most horror-movie-esque of all Corman-Poe flicks, this tale of torture, madness, Satanism, love and death, sadism, orgiastic parties, and "dreary - but acceptable - fact that, in the end, we've got to grin, bear it, and kick the bucket" make this movie the best in the Poe Cycle (with The Pit and the Pendulum). While it is not very faithful, Red Death is considered to be AIPoe's/Roger Corman's magnum opus, plus a chillingly evil performance by Vincent Price as Satan's servant, Prince Prospero. While missing the point of the story, which is of the elitist nature of the Prince, Red Death is a very fine film and is a classic today.


Infamous for being the last of the Poe Cycle (and noted for it's outdoor sequences), director Roger Corman wanted to change his method with Tomb of Ligeia. He broke free from his Freudian theories he had held during previous Poe films and filmed large, open-aired scenes. Something about those new techniques didn't quite click - sadly, since the film would've been so good with the old theories. But Tomb of Ligeia is a very good film, with great performances from Price and Elizabeth Shepard. John Westbrook also makes an appearance here, and he had previously done a wonderful performance as the voice of the Red Death (I say voice because when the Red Death was unmasked, it was Price. But in every case but that, he was the body of the Red Death, also.). A very good movie. 

The Roger Corman Poe Cycle was done. But in 1970, AIP did...


Filmed before a live studio audience, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe featured Price reciting/performing The Tell-Tale HeartThe SphinxThe Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum. This is no easy task, but Price does it well, and (in the case of the first and third "acts") it actually seems as if he has committed the crime. A chillingly good time, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe is something anyone can watch but only Poe/Price fans will appreciate. Definitely a good Halloween flick.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Teachers, get away from that X. I love Poe. And you gotta read this review.

The Pit and the Pendulum/Red Death Productions proudly present a review of Roger Corman's





Directed and Produced by ROGER CORMAN (Co-Produced by GEORGE WILLOUGHBY)


Pathecolor Cinematography by NICHOLAS ROEG

Music by DAVID LEE

Starring VINCENT PRICE as Prince Prospero

Most Memorable Scene: The Danse Macabre

Most Memorable Quote(s): "There is no face of Death...until the moment of your own death." - The Red Death (John Westbrook)

Best Tagline(s): "Horror has a face." - "We defy you to look into this face."

Sorry this took me so long to post. I kept forgetting parts of the film, or where certain parts happened, and I want all my reviews to be detailed. But hey - I finished!

Well. Here it is, folks. I finally got off my butt and finished this review. And I have to say - as someone who appreciates Poe and his work - I am greatly impressed. Greatly, greatly impressed. Sure, Hazel Court's acting (don't hate me) is crappy. Yes, there were weak moments. But otherwise, this movie has everything you want. Poe. Horror. Death. Suggestiveness. Wine. Christianity. Heaven. Satanism. Hell. Good. Evil. And the dreary - but acceptable - fact that, in the end, we've got to grin, bear it, and kick the bucket.

  It's gotta happen sometime.

This is the penultimate film in director/producer Roger Corman's popular Poe Cycle (and this one had the most lavish budget). All but one of the films (The Premature Burial) starred Vincent Price and all were directed by Corman. Not all of the stories were based on Poe - the film The Haunted Palace was based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Corman wanted to escape from the Poe series with this, but American International Pictures (AIP) said no-no and slapped a Poe poem's title on the movie. And The Raven? Another attempted escape by making the film a comedy. But this film is good! It's beautiful to look at - this was the film with the most lavish budget. Beautiful colors, wonderful cinematography, and, once again, that beautiful, beautiful set. People consider this the pick of the Poe series, it being the darkest and most horror movie-like of all the films. I can be fairly certain that this is the darkest of the cycle, after watching the two other goodies in the series (those being The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, which are both fantastic). The film came out around the same time as Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, which has a similar story to Red Death, both with a theme of Death walkin' around.

Just one more thing before we begin - these movies had a minimal resemblance to Poe. WAIT, GET AWAY FROM THAT X UP THERE, TEACHERS! There is a very good, simple reason for this - a short story is not gonna give you a feature-length movie. So most of this movie's focus is on Prospero's Satanism and devil-worship, with only the climax having resemblance to Poe. And oh, how good that climax is. And anywho, you won't wanna be showing this in class. It really is not suitable for kids (me speaking as a kid myself, although somewhat more experienced with me reading Poe). Plus, Roger Corman and lots of other people consider this the best in the series, but it does have some competition with The Pit and the Pendulum (1961). I'll review that one later and tell you which is the stronger film.

So the movie opens up on a (incredibly atmospheric) mountainside. Dead trees litter the area. A greyish, dark, sunless blue sky. Fog rolls down from above. An old woman (uncredited) is collecting branches, which I assume is for firewood. This continues for approximately ten seconds when a Figure in Red (portrayed by John Westbrook) slumped against a tree calls her over.

I just need a moment here. I was, when I first saw this bit, stunned. Roger Corman makes a wonderful use of color in this film. The red brilliantly stood out in an otherwise dreary, bleak setting. It...JUMPS out at you. I'll get more into that later.

The old woman approaches the Figure in Red, who is shuffling Tarot cards. He hands her a white rose. He cups his hand over it - and it turns red, spattered with blood. He tells her to take it to the people of her village and tell them that they shall be free soon.

John Westbrook as the Figure in Red

Into town rides Prince Prospero, deliriously portrayed by the wonderful, mad, mysterious Vincent Price. God, he is AWESOME. In this movie, Prospero is properly portrayed as evil - but really, really evil, meaning he kills and tortures for the mere pleasure of it. And Price pulls it off wonderfully. He is just so crazy in this movie that one might writhe in his seat with the devilish, chilling voice that emanates from his lips put to a wonderful script, written by Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell. One who derives pleasure from deliciously evil acting? Watch Vincent Price's performance here. Pack your bags. It's a good one.

Happy face!

Angry face!

Vincent Price as Prince Prospero.

Prospero enters the town - his carriage ALMOST running over a child - to "thank" them for the harvest. A young man named Gino (portrayed by David Weston)  and another, older man, who I think is called Ludovico (portrayed Nigel Green) taunt Prospero, who treats peasantry like dogs. He also mentions the old woman telling the village about the prophecy the figure told her in turn. So, a figure tells a lady something and she tells the town and a town boy tells the Prince? Hmmm, sounds like a good nursery story.

Just another minute with my Ludovico confusion. Wikipedia calls him Ludovico. IMDb calls him Ludovico. But when I watched the movie, I never heard him called Ludovico. Maybe I misheard. So, for the heck of it, I'll call Nigel Green's character Ludovico.

Prospero is annoyed by this - but annoyed very little. His guards grab the two and shove them down on their knees. Just then, a girl rushes up and begs Prospero to forgive them.

Prospero checks her out. He likes what he sees. That's clear throughout the film - Prospero is in love with her, or at least into this girl, who introduces herself as Francesca (portrayed by Jane Asher). By the way, Jane Asher is a good actress - but she's like the stereotypical, oh-so-common Disney princess. After telling him her name, she once again begs for forgiveness. And, Prospero, doing the first of the many sick games he'll play in this film, tells her that she has to pick the one that will die - or both will be killed. He makes a really evil comment saying that if his "hounds" bite him after he has fed and caressed them, should he allow them to go undisciplined?

Screaming is heard from a cottage. Prospero, annoyed sends over a soldier. Francesca goes on to say that one is her father (Ludovico) and one is her lover (Gino). She begs for mercy...again.

Prospero isn't really moved by this and continues to say that one will die or BOTH will die. Which one?

Before Francesca can make this horrible decision, screaming is again heard from the same cottage. The Prince runs in there, saying he has to do everything himself. Inside, the soldier points to the bed. And...

Now this part actually scared me. Not so much with the gore, but the surprise. The old woman who was told the prophecy is lying on her back. She rolls over - and blood is all over her face, in tiny droplets. It is disgusting. While there is not a lot of gore in this film, there is gore, and when there is, it's gross. This is the most gory out of all the Poe films, but, if you really are nervous, just finish reading this review and then you can cover your eyes.

Prospero, terrified, mutters, "The Red Death!" This suggests that in Roger Corman's film, the Red Death is not unfamiliar to Prospero - or the rest of the world. Considering this is anywhere between the 12th and 16th centuries, princes and other rulers had a real pain in the butt when there was a plague. I'm not saying that Prospero was doing the right thing, I'm saying that when there was a plague in those times - say, the Black Death - it was a hard time. It was a hard time without the plague.

Prospero leaves and asks Gino if that was the cottage of the old woman who heard the prophecy. After he hears yes, he asks Gino, Ludovico, and Francesca if they touched her. When they reply no, Prospero grabs Francesca and runs into his carriage with her. Gino and Ludovico are also taken away. The cottage - and subsequently the village - are burned. The screams of the old women, children, and men are heard. An infant is seen in flames. That was a little sick, but it emphasized Prospero's own sickness.

At the palace, Prospero tells his guards and messengers to summon a thousand friends,courtiers, nobles, etc. He tells them to avoid the village - I think he calls it Catana (I assume that the n has a squiggly line over it. That's called a tilde, by the way). So...maybe Spanish? Or Italian? French, even? Lots of sources say that both the film and the short story are set in Italy (naturally during medieval times), so that's what I'll assume, but it isn't important in either case.

Anyway, Francesca is forced to undress and is shoved in a tub. Prospero walks in with his consort, Juliana (portrayed by Hazel Court). Juliana (who clearly has the hots for Prospero) is jealous and asks why Francesca has to stay in her room. Whiny brat.

"Why does your new girlfriend who hates you have to stay in my room? Why? Whhhhhyyyyyyy?"

Now, Hazel Court is a pretty good actress - up until the Satanic scenes. Then she starts to be crappy. Except during the freakin' creepy psychedelic Satan-sacrifice-dark-ritual dream sequence. But I can forgive her. I am a merciful one.

Prospero (Vincent Price) and Juliana (Hazel Court)

Prospero, being crazy, sick, and evil, asks why Francesca hides herself. She responds, surprised at the Prince asking such a personal, probing question, that it "isn't right" that he should look at her like this.

I applaud Roger Corman. Most horror movies show buckets of blood and scenes of nudity that feature...well, kissing and cuddling while nude, if you get the picture. Roger Corman does a Gypsy-esque thing with Francesca - she's nude, but you cannot see any private areas. THANK YOU ROGER CORMAN. I hate hate hate films that do that. Well...there are exceptions. Bram Stoker's DraculaShakespeare in Love. As long as it has a good plot and not too much of it, than I'm fine.

Prospero sees Francesca has a crucifix around her neck. He asks her if she wears it as a trinket of respect or if she has true faith in the Christian belief. She answers to the latter. Prospero then tells her to remove it and never wear it again. This is the start of the God - Satan war that persists throughout this film. He then storms off into the depths of the castle.

Juliana taunts Francesca, but she retorts that Juliana must do as Prospero says. CAT-FIGHT ALERT. Giiirrrrllll, you just got sassy!

Mmmm hmmm.

The next day, the bunch of sickos are having lustful, wine-induced games. It's freakin' nasty. The entire place is just one big bed in which everyone is lying - except Francesca, who has to watch the nudes canoodle with each other (by the way, if you don't know, 'canoodle' and 'canoodling' are just words that mean...kissing and cuddling). Meanwhile, Prospero is trying to get her in the bed, while Juliana tries to stop that. Of course, that's just a metaphor, but its pretty much what's happening here. Except that outside the bedroom are poor dying people!

So...yeah. Perfect metaphor.

Prospero gives a lecture on the nature of terror - the clanging of a clock striking the hour playing in his background. But he takes terror and hits it on the ground by bringing in two dwarves - Hop-Toad and Esmeralda.

Now, for all you Poe buffs (such as myself) out there, you'll know that this is a subplot drawn from another Poe story - a creepy one about fire and midgets - called Hop-Frog. They just took that tale and incorporated it into the movie, which I think was, actually, pretty smart. The story of Hop-Frog needed film treatment, and, seeing as how both stories have a climactic scene at a masquerade, the two were meant to be combined. Subsequently, Hop-Frog is my brother's favorite Poe story and Red Death mine. In this case, Hop-Frog is now Hop-Toad (portrayed by Skip Martin) and Trippetta is now Esmeralda (portrayed by Verina Greenlaw). Oh, and if you want to read a weird story with a colorful cast, two midgets, wine, orangutans, murder, and a happy-ever-after ending, well, then Hop-Frog is that story. 

Now Esmeralda is acted out by a child, but they overdubbed a woman's voice for her. This just looks stupid. I mean, think about it - a child with an older woman's voice. It looks ridiculous. But my real question is: is Verina Greenlaw the child actress? Or the voice-over?

Esmeralda is doing a pretty stupid ballet (it must be seen to be believed) when she knocks over a noble's wine. The noble is called Alfredo (portrayed by Patrick Magee), who promptly slaps her across the face (in the original story of Hop-Frog, this would be equivalent to the moment where the king throws wine in Trippetta's face).

Prospero (Vincent Price) and Alfredo (Patrick Magee)

Hop-Toad looks stunned and comforts Esmeralda as they walk away. Prospero snidely says his first novelty has failed but states that, on the (Black? Or non-Satanic?) Sabbath, there will be a masque. They can wear whatever they want, but ("even for the humour of it,") they CANNOT WEAR RED. Then Prospero laughingly throws wine in Alfredo's face. Sicko.

Francesca comes down, wearing a white gown with RIDICULOUS hair. There is then a really weird sequence where Prospero makes everyone act like animals. The result? It shows the audience that any noble in the palace is a sicko, other than Francesca, Gino, Ludovico, and the sad saps who are in Prospero's dungeon (which we'll be visiting soon).

Prospero takes Francesca into the Yellow Room (yes, they don't have all the rooms in the story, and they don't have the same colors in the story) and talks about how his ancestor or father or whatever imprisoned a friend in there for two years, and how when the guy was released, he couldn't look at the sun - or a daffodil. He says his ancestors was trying to see how easily minds could be twisted and bent at will, so they could find the key to their "Creator." They walk into the Purple Room, Prospero continuing, saying that God is a delusion and how Satan rules in his place. Jerk. I hate you even more.

They walk into the White Room, when Francesca sees a black door (the door to the Black Room) tries to enter. Prospero urgently blocks her, and Francesca says (and I quote): "You look as though - there something to fear in there?" Prospero retorts: "For the uninvited there is much to fear."

Prospero is wandering the halls in the middle of the night when freakin' Juliana calls him over. How the heck is she there?


She asks why he wanders among the midnight corridors. He answers that sleep eludes him.

After a short little back and forth, Juliana openly asks Prospero to join his cult of Satanists. Prospero says something about women and wonders aloud if Francesca will ask the same thing. Juliana seems annoyed.

Francesca wakes in the middle of the night and hears Prospero chanting (Latin?) phrases. There's this really creepy, atmospheric scene with Francesca holding a candle, then she screams and drops the candle when she sees blood on her night-table. This blood spatter is never fully explained - but it can be assumed it is part of the horrific, Satanic ritual that Prospero and whiny-brat Juliana are going through.

After a while, Francesca enters the Black Room. She walks in front of Juliana, who has her eyes wide open but does not appear to see Francesca - she is in a trance. Prospero is on the floor in a corpse's position. His eyes are closed - Francesca goes up to him - 

 - and, as everyone expected, they open up wide. Sheesh, everyone saw that coming! Francesca runs screaming, out of the room, and bumps into Alfredo wearing a demon mask.


As much sense as that didn't make, it happens! Really! Watch the movie! It just doesn't make sense. WHERE are these people coming from? It confuses me! Why would a random guy be in the hallway at that unholy hour? Why is he wearing a freakin' demon mask?!? Look, I - I just can't -

The next day, Prospero takes Francesca to the courtyard and sends his falcon to kill a bird (which it does). He now fully reveals his Satanic worship to the audience, as up to this point it has only been implied (although the previous scene might have convinced you already). He then sees a man named Scarlatti (portrayed by Paul Whitsun-Jones). He asks for admittance into the castle, and then begs for it when he is told that the Red Death has ravaged the land. He then offers up his wife to Prospero, saying he can have her. Prospero snidely comments to Francesca that Scarlatti considered himself good in many things, particularly in his faithfulness. Scarlatti begs again, continuing to offer up his wife, and Prospero laughingly replies that he has already had that pleasure. Scarlatti just got hit in the heart (like the arrow that just did). Yes, Prospero shoots and kills Scarlatti with bow-and-crossbow. He then tells the wife to 'git!

I gotta admit, point Prospero. Scarlatti says he and his wife are very faithful to each other, certain of it, while Prospero is...kissing and cuddling with his wife behind his back. Heh. Dramatic irony. 

Down in the cellar/dungeon, Gino and Ludovico are being taught swordplay, as Prospero wants them to have a duel to the death for the castle's entertainment. Gino refuses to fight his friend, so the guard cuts him a bit, forcing Gino to fight back with his sword.

Prospero comes to check on the progress, and, to his (and the audience's) surprise, he is actually befuddled by Gino. Gino says the two will not fight, and that Prospero would not give them up to mere torture because then Prospero would've lost in a weird kind of way. The devilishly clever price starts devising a plan...

The next couple of scenes are Prospero kind of trying to seduce Francesca into his cult and into his bed. Juliana basically engages herself to Satan when she brands an upside down cross on her breast.

Okay, wait a freakin' minute. I know theistic Satanists like to reverse elements of Christianity (like how the Mass became the Black Mass), but wasn't Saint Peter crucified upside-down because he felt unworthy to be crucified like Jesus? If anything, an upside-down cross is a sign of being unworthy in the face of Jesus and the LORD. Yeah. God, if Richard Matheson (earlier Poe films, The Twilight Zone) had scripted this one this movie would've been so much better.

Sorry. As a Christian I get uncomfortable around movies involving people who have a religion based on Satan and I get worse when I sense inaccuracy. Saint Peter was crucified upside-down, but the upside-down cross is a symbol of Satan?

Then again, Charles Beaumont and Robert Campbell probably don't vigorously study and read the Bible very vigorously or studied Christianity a bit. And I KNOW they didn't look into Satanism (WHICH I HAVE NOT EITHER!).

Juliana enters Francesca's room and gives her the key to Gino and Ludovico's cell. Francesca is completely shocked and appalled at Juliana's engagement to the Devil (as any sane person should be). But she shuts up. What are you gonna do? Tell your grilfrenemy that she can't marry the guy 'cause he's crazy and evil and damned and lives in Hell? Yeah. And anyway, she was given the key to escape with Gino and Ludovico. She's got more important stuff to worry about. Francesca thinks that it is better to face the Red Death than Prince Prospero and Satan. Which, in most respects, in right.

Francesca gets Gino and Ludovico. As they are running through the terrifying cellars, Prospero's guards find them. Gino and Ludovico quickly kill them with their swords used for fencing (ironic, isn't it?). As they get out onto the battlements, they see a guard...

...who is revealed to be Prospero.

I'm not going to go on about the ridiculousness of this. Why would Prospero be there, wearing a guard's suit, with his face back to the dungeon exit? I don't know. Ask Roger Corman or the screenwriters. But there is some good dialogue here:

Francesca: Juliana betrayed us!
Prospero: She betrayed me.

Meanwhile, Hop-Toad is talking to Alfredo. He says how Alfredo should dress up like a great, hairy ape/orangutan. After Hop-Toad notes how much fun this would be, and how much fright it was occasion among women of the court, the weird, interested-in-latter-statement Alfredo agrees. Hop-Toad will design the costume.

About several hours before the masque, a feast is thrown. There, Prospero states that he will convert all of the present to Satanists while he sticks about seven daggers in the table. This direction - the stabbing of the table - is really effective and creepy. There is no music, just the wonderfully eerie acting of Vincent Price, who is smiling casually as he does this. Gino and Ludovico enter at Prospero's command.

Shoot! I forget this part! Well, I'll just have to go on Wikipedia and find out, I am NOT watching The Masque of the Red Death for a while.

Wikipedia says:

Prospero summons Gino and Ludovico. As they refuse to fight each other, he instead has them each choose daggers to cut themselves with. One of the daggers is coated with poison, and, upon choosing the last dagger (which by process of elimination is revealed to be the poisoned one) Ludovico attempts to stab Prospero with it, but Prospero runs him through the heart with his sword.

This is from Wikipedia. I own nothing.

Prospero is about to kill Gino, but Francesca says she will join his cult if he is spared. Gino is cast out of the castle to be consumed by the plague. Juliana, dropping a rose, tells her prince that she is ready.

Outside of the castle, Gino is running through the foggy wood when the Figure in Red from the start of the film calls him over. He asks about the castle, and Gino talks about Prospero's sadistic horrors and games. The Figure in Red gives him a tarot card which represents Mankind. He also says that love can be used as a weapon against Prospero.

Gino meets about seven villagers carrying a plague-cart to Prospero's castle. They say that anything is better than the Red Death and they are going to beg Prospero for mercy, EVEN if it is begging at the castle of the Devil himself.

When they arrive (Gino staying behind, of course), Prospero orders the guards to crossbow 'em! But one young girl is not. Prospero leaves her alone, probably thinking something along the lines of "Eh. Why kill her? She'll die of the Red Death anyways."

Juliana completes her marriage to Satan when she goes into a trance, having a psychedelic dream sequence (a Corman-Poe tradition) where shrouded and masked figures take her through an aquatic-green hall and stab at her on a table. These figures are wearing strange, grotesque masks. They kinda look like traditional voodoo masks. Anyway, this sequence is creepy.

Juliana (Hazel Court) runs through her distorted dreamscape.
A Satanic dream ghost reaps at Juliana with a scythe.

When she wakes, she runs into the main chamber, where Prospero is waiting. She yells that she has married Satan, and - 

 - from a scene right out of The Birds, a crow flies in from Heaven (or Hell) knows where and attacks/kills Juliana. Her body is mainly inttact, except for her breast, where the crow pretty much tore out her heart. Prospero says not to mourn, as she has just married his best bud. The rapidly approaching masque is prepared for.

Hop-Toad, dressed as an ape trainer, talks to Esmeralda. He carefully instructs her to not come to the masque, and that they shall be free that night.

Hop-Toad (Skip Martin) wearing his ape-trainer guise

Here we go. All those sickos are wearing costumes are dancing with each other, and the 15th century masque from Hell is on. Prospero is with Francesca, who has resigned herself to him. Her initiation will begin probably at midnight the next day. It is then midnight on the masque.

Alfredo enters with his ape costume, but it doesn't really have the intended shock effect on the crowd (they just laugh and stuff. In the meantime, Hop-Toad is inconspicuously lowering the chandelier until Alfredo will knock into it if he stands up. But he isn't standing up, forcing himself on a woman. DISGUSTING SICKO.

I gotta say, I really hate Alfredo. That is the intended effect, I believe, but he seems really sick, even sicker than the rest of the company. I mean, Prospero is pretty sick, but he's malevolently evil. But Alfredo is just a crazy weirdo. I would use another term, but I feel that I wanna keep this blog clean-mouthed. Hell is not what is loosely termed a "bad word" unless it is used in a bad expression.

Anyway, Hop-Toad humiliates Alfredo, who promises Hop-Toad agony and torture. Hop-Toad snidely comments that he has tortured him enough with the abuse of Esmeralda, and continues to whip and humiliate the guy. FINALLY! Alfredo has gotten what has been coming to him along time. Praise the Lord! Raise them dirty hands and give up some pray, yeah! Oh, Lawdy!

Ah. I love Gospel.

Oh, and then Hop-Toad sets Alfredo on fire, scalding him and burning him beyond degree. And it is already pretty hot in the flammable ape costume.

I feel no pity.

Hop-Toad makes off, to the disappointment of Prospero, who wants to reward Hop-Toad for his "entertainment." And, I gotta say, I don't disagree with Prospero. I really hated Alfredo.

The mess is cleaned up. Two bodies in one night. That Prospero knows how to throw a party!

Francesca (Jane Asher) and Prospero (Vincent Price) at the masque.

Outside, Gino runs up to the battlements, hoping to re-enter the castle and save Francesca. He is very noble, you have to admit. He has every right to leave that monstrous castle and make for greener pastures. But he doesn't. Outside the door, he is greeted by the Figure in Red, who, with a wave of his hand, kills a guard...of the Red Death. He tells Gino to wait outside and Francesca will come. Gino turns to look at the guard's corpse, with a bloodied face. But when he turns back, the Figure in Red is gone.

In the masque, Prospero throws gold down upon the maskers. He comments to Francesca how greedy these people are, and they walk down the grand staircase to the other side of the ballroom. There are several shots of the insane revelry. This really is a big party. These people are living like kings. They are running around and dancing and rolling and yelling and all that jazz.

The greedy nobles look for gold.

Suddenly, Prospero notices the Figure in Red, whom he does not recognize. He forbade the maskers to wear red, and here is some dude who is interrupting his flow. He follows (with Francesca behind) the Figure to the Black Room. The Figure hints at cosmic knowledge and power that is beyond comprehension. Prospero believes this Figure is either Satan or his emissary, coming to "reward" him for his faithfulness to the Fallen Angel. "He does not rule...alone," states the Figure. He talks of death. As the clock strikes one, they enter the ballroom. Then begins one of the most memorable quotes in the film: "It is time for a new dance to begin...the Dance of Death."

Prospero (Vincent Price), the Figure in Red (John Westbrook), and Francesca (Jane Asher) at the masque.

As the Figure waves his hand, all the revelers become infected with the Red Death and die...but they continue to dance, the scene changing from a mad revelry to a grim Danse Macabre. Prospero does not seem to fact, he seems to smile. He is not affected by the death of the party, he believes that their souls have went to Hell - which, in any case, is not a good thing.

The Danse Macabre

Prospero believes he will have a high position in Hell and asks for Francesca to receive this same treatment. The Figure does not fully answer this question (he's mysterious, isn't he?) and tells her to go out to the battlements...

...where Gino is waiting. Booyah! Take that, Prospero! She ain't going to Hell with you, she's going straight up to Heaven with her lover you thought dead! Irony, I LOVE YOU!

Prospero says he is happy that Satan is proud. The Figure in Red is surprised and mentions the other God (the LORD).

Prospero: There is no other God! Satan killed him!

That is wrong, Prospero. I hate you so much for saying that. I hate you even more than before that is just blasphemy. Blasphemy, I say!

Prospero demands to see the face of the masker, who replies "There is no face of Death...until the moment of your own Death." The figure unmasks himself, and...

The bloodstained face of the Red Death (Vincent Price, voiced by John Westbrook).

Yes - the face of the Red Death is but Prospero's own face, covered with blood. It is horrific to Prospero, who flees through the still-dancing-yet-dead crowd. But wherever he goes, he finds that face staring upon him.

The Red Death opens his arms to Prospero.

The crowd starts to truly die, grasping the completely horrified Prospero.

Prospero fights his way through the crowd, who are in their death-agonies.

They fall to the ground, dead. He flees to the Black Room, but finds the Red Death there, still with his terrifying face.

The Red Death in the Black Room.

"Each man creates his own Heaven, and his own Hell," says the Red Death (with Price's face but with Westbrook's voice). "Your Hell, Prospero." Prospero dies in agony, blood streaming down his face in the red tinted light. His final thought most likely being "I was wrong. So terribly wrong..."

In the darkness of an old knoll tree, a Figure in Red sits. This was the very tree where an old woman was given a flower - a white rose dappled red with blood. The Figure is shuffling Tarot Cards in front of a girl - a girl who was spared the agonies of the crossbow by a cruel, sadistic Prince.

Behind the Figure in Red is a Figure in Black - the "brother" of the former. Several others, all in different colours, come. They speak of the lives they have claimed during the night. The Figure in Red says only six are left - a dwarf and a short dancer, a young woman and her lover, an old man in the village, and the girl in front of him. As they rise in a procession of death, he mutters "Sic transit gloria mundi," Latin for "thus passes the glory of the world." As they leave, words appear on the bottom of the screen...

"And Darkness, and Decay, and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."


Wow! I finally finished it! I am so proud of myself!

All in all, The Masque of the Red Death is a very good film. It, at many times, is truly disturbing. The film is the most horror movie-esque out of all Poe films - by that, I mean the darkest. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. I am dead serious. The screenwriting makes the film creepy enough. But then we add Price on top. This is definitely his most malevolent character. In Pit and the Pendulum (which I will be reviewing next!), we were given a crazed but sympathetic Price. In House of Usher, he is merely a miserable older brother trying to protect everyone. But him as Prince he is EVIL. There are no two ways about it. In this film, Vincent Price plays a character who is DEAD EVIL. I don't care what you say, he is EVIL EVIL EVIL! Price plays the role so well that it actually scares you. It is disturbingly realistic.

The poorest element in the film? David Lee's music. It isn't terrible, but we had greats from Ronald Stein (The Haunted Palace) and Les Baxter (every other Poe film before)! And after we'd have a chillingly elegant score from the wonderful Kenneth V. Jones. Masque of the Red Death has grandeur, more than any Poe film, but it flunks in the music. What a shame!

This is one of what I call the Holy Trinity of the Poe Cycle (the others being Pit and the Pendulum and House of Usher). I will review all of these. For fans of horror movies that are truly creepy, watch Masque of the Red Death. As you may or may not know, Red Death (in it's original short story form) is my favorite story by Poe. I am conflicted in terms of the films, but for now, this is certainly my favorite.

Definitely watch Masque of the Red Death. You can buy it here, with The Premature Burial. This is has also been posted on my other blog, Red Death Productions. Again, I am Brian O'Connell, and goodnight.


Vincent Price as Prince Prospero

Jane Asher as Francesca

Hazel Court as Juliana

John Westbrook as the Red Death

David Weston as Gino

Nigel Green as Ludovico

Patrick Magee as Alfredo

Skip Martin as Hop-Toad

Verina Greenlaw as Esmeralda

Monday, October 14, 2013


Hi! Brian here. This is a blog where I'll post horror movie reviews. By the by, I like more of classic horror, so you probably won't be seeing slasher movies or gorefests. You WILL see older horror movies like the Vincent Price or Alfred Hitchcock films. You might even see a few modern horror movies! I'm currently working on an "inaugural" review of The Masque of the Red Death (1964), which will also be included on my other blog. I'm probably going to do a weirder, nightmarish, just downright CRAZY film called Phantom of the Paradise (1974) after that. But not right now. So, (hurriedly) I conclude the intro. I'm Brian O'Connell and this is The Premature Burial.