Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Roger Corman.

Full-bloom Corman!  The Masque of the Red Death is incredibly visually striking.  It uses colour in that wonderful way typical of the 60s: unapologetically.  Lots of primary colours but as can be seen in these two screen shots, but there is also gorgeous use of complementary and analogous colour too.   The otherworldly scene seen below is pretty wild: a parade of demons from pagan / pre-Christian cultures repeatedly murder the same woman -- but they do it while performing a lovely ballet dance.

This film is similar to Corman's other gothic Poe flicks but better:  unlike House of Usher, whose tiny cast of four in a big castle and use of wide-angel lenses still somehow feels claustrophobic (and then mainly dull), Masque is filled with interesting characters.  Vincent Price is fantastic as a man driven to evil out of pure disappointment; any hopefulness about the human condition has been extinguished and replaced with a sad philosophy he claims is merely realistic.  And poor old Juliana (played by Hazel Court) who can never compete with cutie pie, decades-younger Jane Asher (Price's new object of affection).  She commits one of the more desperate bids for a man's attention:  she gives herself up to Satan!  My ignorant view on the Poe story is that it contains more enduring ideas (is it an allegory - and for what?) and goes beyond other examples of his work, which on occasion contain not much more than a single concept or device - Corman's devotion to the original work makes the film intriguing as well.

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