The Masque of the Red Death
Written by: Charles Beaumont & R. Wright Campbell, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe
Directed by: Roger Corman
Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston
The Premature Burial
Written by: Charles Beaumont & Ray Russell, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe
Directed by: Roger Corman
Starring: Ray Milland, Hazel Court, Richard Ney, Heather Angel, Alan Napier
- Roger Corman Behind the Masque
- Roger Corman Unearths Premature Burial
- Original Theatrical Trailers for both films
Released by: MGM
My Advice: Rent it on a Friday night
[ad#longpost]The Masque of the Red Death is a “B” horror movie starring the king of them all, Vincent Price. Price stars as Prince Prospero, a dark, disturbed magistrate who takes in several peasants from the local village (just before burning it down) into his castle to survive an impending plague–The Red Death, natch. After arriving in the castle, Francesca (Asher) discovers there is an even darker side to the prince with regards to his religious preference. See, he’s a worshiper of Satan. Anyway, he holds a masquerade ball one night and one of his guests wears a costume that bears a remarkable resemblance to his master. However, when he unmasks this guest, he is horrified at the discovery of the true identity.
Like most of the “B” movies, this is a very weak script shot with a very limited budget. Price had a history of making most of these work on some level, but even he seems to be out of his depth on this one. It’s difficult to tell, but either the script tries to focus too much on the Satan worship aspect of the story, or the writers just didn’t know how to deal with it in 1964. They seem to be trying to make that the scary part of the movie, but all they succeed in doing is boring their audience.
Also, it has been a long time since I have read the original Poe story, but it seems to me that they took quite a few liberties with the story in order to put this movie together. In my opinion, it wasn’t one of the better Price/Corman collaborations, either.
In The Premature Burial, we see the story of Emily Gault (Court) and Guy Carrell (Milland) trying to revive a dying relationship. There are two things standing in the way of their marriage: Guy’s sister Kate and his phobia of being buried alive. Kate doesn’t approve of their relationship and Guy becomes obsessed with overcoming his fear. In his attempts to overcome his fear, he unearths his father’s coffin, but this final act sends him into a sort of walking coma.
Again, this film is also really badly written and the pitiful size of the budget is blatantly obvious throughout. Vincent Price had an air about him that carried these movies that Ray Milland just could not pull off. It is mostly because of this that this movie seems to be the weaker of the two on this disc. Every character’s motivation seems to be “the director told me to go over here and say my lines, so that’s what I’m going to do” and none of the actors appear to be listening to each other at all.
This double feature DVD has some fairly decent features given the weakness of the source material. And, I have to say, weak or not, these movies are a piece of American Movie History so it is nice that they have been given the treatment they have. There are two interview segments with Roger Corman himself where he goes into detail about each film. He not only gives us information about the films themselves, but the history of how they were made and a little insight into the politics of the 1960s film industry. I know that in most cases having theatrical trailers listed as special features seems to be a waste of space on DVDs, but I think I might be having my mind changed about that. These trailers are every bit a piece of cinematic history as the films themselves and it is interesting to see how they have changed over the years. And, even though they don’t seem all that great in terms of “wowing” a DVD audience, they should certainly be on these discs for posterity’s sake.
So, wait until a Friday night to rent this DVD. Put it in a portable DVD player and watch it with a date in the back seat of a car because it’s a shame there’s no way to capture the feeling of a drive-in movie on these DVDs.