The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death ★★★★

Breathtakingly vivid for 1965, The Masque of the Red Death was somethng entirely unexpected for me; knowing only the general narrative and not much in the way of detail, I was anticipating a much more overtly philosophical exploration of class, morality, and religion somewhat in line with Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Instead, I was treated to a sumptuous visual feast and a superficially typical Gothic narrative whose themes are much more obscure, and was surprised to learn that the actual meaning of the source material has been a matter of debate among Poe readers since its creation. As told through Price's magnificent voice, the film centers around the world's inherent lack of morality, but the bold color that's slathered on the screenplay (and original short story) hint at a more nuanced interpretation. To me, this is a film that viewers can attribute a substantial range of meanings to, and one that is ripe for potential reimagining by some enterprising modern filmmaker (in the era of COVID, it's almost tailor-made). Regardless of interpretation, the film is a masterpiece of physical design, with both sets and costumes worthy of praise, and Price filling out his traditional role of villain so perfectly that you almost forget to give him his due credit, given the mammoth size of his reputation in such roles.

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