Masque of the Red Death, The (Blu-ray) (1964)

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Released 2-Sep-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Cinema Cult trailers x 6
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 88:47
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Roger Corman
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Vincent Price
Jane Asher
Hazel Court
David Weston
Patrick Magee
Nigel Green
Skip Martin


Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music David Lee


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In medieval Europe Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) is a tyrant and a worshipper of Satan. Passing through a village he discovers an old woman dying of the Red Death plague; he orders the village burnt but has taken a fancy to the young innocent girl Francesca (Jane Asher) who he takes to his castle along with her father Ludovico (Nigel Green) and fiancé Gino (David Weston), although while Francesca is pampered the others are thrown into the castle dungeons.

     Prospero has gathered in his castle a diverse range of sycophants, including Alfredo (Patrick Magee), and they pass their time drinking and amusing themselves while the plague ravages the countryside outside the castle walls. Prospero intends to initiate Francesca into Satanic rites, which displeases his consort Juliana (Hazel Court) who fears being replaced. The climax of the revels and Prospero’s worship of Satan is to be a masque, a ball with costumes and masks, but when the night comes others, including the dwarf jester Hop Toad (Skip Martin), have their own agendas. And then Prospero discovers an uninvited guest, dressed all in red, at the masque who may just be Satan himself.

     In 1960 low budget filmmaker Roger Corman hit pay-dirt with his first Edgar Allan Poe adaptation staring Vincent Price, The Fall of the House of Usher. That film did so well for A.I.P. it spawned a run of seven more official Corman-Poe pictures starring Price of which The Masque of the Red Death (1964) was the second last and the first one to be filmed in England followed only by The Tomb of Ligeia in 1965.

     The Masque of the Red Death, fifty years on, is still a fabulous, intelligent horror film with Price in fine form, a cast of experienced English actors and many typical Corman touches. During the course of the Poe films Corman got a little tired of horror and so in The Raven (1963) he injected comedy into the mix and got a very campy performance from Price. However with the move to England The Masque of the Red Death reverts back to horror and light-hearted moments are very much absent. In many of the Corman-Poe films the Price character is a haunted or conflicted man, but in The Masque of the Red Death this trait is also absent; Prince Prospero is very much in control of who and what he is. This is Price at his best; Prospero does not think of himself as evil, just a reasonable man worshipping his deity. When Francesca objects to Prospero torturing people in the name of Satan, he replies that one of his ancestors, a member of the Inquisition, tortured sinners to return their souls to God, and he cannot see the difference.

     Other cast members vary in their impact: Jane Asher (probably better known for her relationship with Beatle Paul McCartney) looks beautiful but has a limited range while David Weston as the hero and love interest is flat. Much better are a smarmy Patrick Magee and the stoic Nigel Green (who made such an impact in the magnificent Zulu, the same year), Skip Martin and “Horror Queen” Hazel Court. She had worked with Corman on Poe films a couple of times before, in Premature Burial (1962), which was not a Price film starring instead Ray Milland, and The Raven (1963), which was. Here, in The Masque of the Red Death, she provides an excellent foil for Price.

     Corman was known for his use of colour and in The Masque of the Red Death he goes to 11. From the very first scene, with the red cowl standing out against the grey of the night forest, the colour scheme is vibrant. Special mention must be make of the use Corman makes of the transition between rooms in the castle when the camera moves from a room which is all yellow, to one which is burgundy, to a white room, and finally to the inner, all black room with the red highlight. Talk about colourful! The sets and costumes are opulent and the film looks fabulous courtesy of cinematographer Nicholas Roeg who afterwards become an important director in his own right with films including Performance (1970), Walkabout (1971) and Don’t Look Now (1973).

     The Masque of the Red Death has a deserved reputation as a horror classic. If the hallucinatory sequence is very Corman and very 60s, in all other aspects The Masque of the Red Death holds up well. The sets and costumes look fabulous, it has an intelligent screenplay by Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell with musings on the metaphysical plus Corman and Vincent Price in fine form.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Masque of the Red Death is presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This film looks spectacular in this HD print. As noted, colours are beautifully deep and vibrant, with the reds especially stunning. Faces, costumes, sets and the branches in the forest are finely detailed, blacks solid and shadow detail very good. Grain is evident, but nicely controlled, brightness and contrast consistent, skin tones natural.

     There are a number of small marks on the print, most of which are hardly noticeable, although there is an obvious tear at 80:23 and a scratch at 81:25. There is also minor motion blur against mottled surfaces such grills, stonework or branches.

     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono.

     Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. While this is a mono audio the effects, such as carriage wheels, footsteps, doors or the wind are crisp and have some depth. The score by David Lee is quite strident in places but does add tension to some quieter scenes.

     There is no surround or subwoofer use.

     I did not notice any hiss or distortion.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Cinema Cult Trailers

     Trailers for The Masque of the Red Death (2:12), Masters of the Universe (1:39), Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (2:08), The Abominable Dr. Phibes (2:34), Electra Glide in Blue (3:17), Vanishing Point (2:14) and Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1:52).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     In the US the Region A Blu-ray of The Masque of the Red Death seems to be available only as part of the multi-disc The Vincent Price Collection. Extras on that release are an audio commentary with writer Steve Haberman, an interview with Roger Corman (18:52), two excerpts with Vincent Price (3:59 / 2:29), a trailer and photo gallery. There is no UK Region B release listed, only Region B versions from German and Spain. Interestingly, The Masque of the Red Death is not included in the Region B UK Blu-ray boxset of Six Gothic Tales (The Premature Burial (1961) is the other film missing from that set). If you only want this film as stand alone, buy local.

Summary

     The Masque of the Red Death is one of the best of the Corman – Poe films, a marvellous horror film that holds up very well after 50 years. The sets and costumes are fabulous, the film is very colourful, it has an intelligent screenplay, diabolical deeds, an innocent virgin, the plague, castle dungeons, ponderings on God and Satan and Vincent Price in fine form. This is truly a classic and it is wonderful to have it on Blu-ray.

     The film looks great in HD, the audio is the original mono. Trailers are the only extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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