The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death ★★★½

A gothic phantasmagoria. Or maybe The Seventh Seal spiked with wormwood and LSD? I’m pretty sure I’d seen this before and was unimpressed (no doubt because it deviated too far from the source material), so last week I was ready to declare The Pit and the Pendulum the likely best of the Corman oeuvre. Now I’m not so sure. Red Death meanders a bit, and it owes the aforementioned  debt to Bergman, but there is a delectable push and pull between the innocent and the decadent here. Prospero is evil incarnate … but damn if he doesn’t have style! Perhaps before I thought the interpolation of the Hop-Frog story to be an unnecessary digression, but now I see that it adds a counterpoint to both the smug, delusional prince and the god-fearing but victimized villagers. Beware the little man with great imagination.

It doesn’t seem like there’s any reason for this movie to exist, and yet it does. I think that’s kind of cool.

Addendum: I also enjoyed the creepy pre-Clockwork Orange Patrick Magee performance. I kept waiting for him to blurt out TRY THE WINE.

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