THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH
As with most of Roger Cormans Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Corman and his writers in this case acclaimed fantasy author Charles Beaumont, who wrote 7 Faces of Dr Lao (1964) and science-fiction author R. Wright Campbell have taken a fragment that is the Edgar Allan Poe story and padded it out into a feature-length script. The Masque of the Red Death (1842) is a three-page short story, which is essentially a set-up for a sombre twist ending where the Red Death attends Prosperos masque in person. Thus Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell have to invent a backstory to make Prospero come to life. (They also throw in the Edgar Allan Poe story Hop-Frog (1849) to pad things out).
They make the script into an amazing study in cruelty and sadism. In the opening scene, Jane Asher begs for the lives of her father (Nigel Green) and lover (David Weston) to be told by Vincent Price that she must choose which of the two will be allowed to live; later Price constructs a game where the two men must alternately gash themselves with daggers, not knowing which of the daggers is poisoned. A husband and wife come begging Prosperos asylum from the Red Death, the man offering his wife to Vincent Price to which Price coldly replies Ive already had that pleasure and then shoots the man with a crossbow bolt and throws the woman a sword Spare yourself madam.
In this version, Prospero and Prosperos sister, played by an alarmingly jealous Hazel Court, are also Satanists. This makes The Masque of the Red Death the first Hollywood film, apart from fitful early attempts such as The Black Cat (1934) and The Seventh Victim (1943), to actually mention Satanism. It is fairly tame in comparison to the depictions of Satanism that emerged after Rosemarys Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973) not much more than a drug-trip sequence with a few cackling masked figures although there is a good shock sequence where Hazel Court brands herself as Satans bride with an inverted crucifix.
The Masque of the Red Death is the most sumptuous of all Roger Cormans Edgar Allan Poe adaptations with some expansive castle interior sets, most notably a series of interlocked rooms with each in a single colour scheme. (This was the point that Roger Corman moved production base of the Poe films to the UK and was able to take much greater advantage of the studios there and make his budget go further). The film is also luxuriously photographed by a young Nicolas Roeg, who would later embark on his own directorial career with the likes of Dont Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and The Witches (1990).
Roger Cormans other Edgar Allan Poe films are The House of Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), the Poe-titled but H.P. Lovecraft adapted The Haunted Palace (1963) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). Corman also produced a disappointing remake Masque of Red Death (1989).
Roger Cormans other genre films as director are: Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), War of the Satellites (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Not of This Earth (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Journey to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), The Undead (1957), Teenage Caveman (1958), A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), Last Woman on Earth (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Tower of London (1962), The Terror (1963), X The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Trip (1967), Gas; or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It (1970) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Cormans World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) is a documentary about Cormans career.