Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher
Director: Roger Corman
Roger Corman did a few of these Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, which starred the inimitable Vincent Price. By the time this one came out, and was filmed in the UK, there was a certain camp comedy to them, but this one breaks the mold a little by being more serious in tone.
Vincent Price is Prince Prospero, a devil worshiping prince who terrorises his subjects, til the plague starts to sweep the land. Then he kidnaps a village girl who takes his fancy, enslaves her husband and father, and returns to his castle to wait out the disease. He is joined there by his wealthy noble friends, and they think themselves safe, but the Red Death stalks them all, even as Prospero plans lavish entertainments, culminating in a masked ball.
There is a push-pull dynamic between Prospero and Francesca, the young girl, who is the picture of innocence in juxtaposition to his pure evil. He takes her into his world, and she’s shocked by the evil that he and his friends think is entertaining. He wants her to join him in his worship, but she is resistant, though she is slowly worn down. It’s actually all a bit silly really, but in a delightful 60’s way, and after watching anything on HBO nothing here is really that shocking. But the whole thing is really sinister, and Price is clearly having the time of his life, so it’s worth seeing for that alone. The sets are pretty lavish, and the cinematography is really nice. Oh, and a dwarf jester sets fire to a man in a gorilla suit, so the film really has everything.
See It If: Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Price and Roger Corman? What more do you want?