#305 -- The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Rating: 3 / 5
And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
To me, Edgar Allen Poe is like the Shakespeare of horror. You really have to think to understand exactly what it is he's trying to say. There are obvious points to his stories, but there's always a hidden meaning that is usually more terrifying than the obvious. He was a poet; whether you're speaking of his stories or his poems, all of his work is poetry. I read The Masque of the Red Death in high school, and I re-visited it after watching this movie starring Vincent Price. I felt something was missing from the movie, and felt the need to feel that which the original story had to offer. If you look into the meanings behind the story, you'll find that it is a very deep and terrifying tale, both things I didn't get from the movie. That's not to say that the movie is bad, because it's not; but to get the full effect of this story, you'll need to read Poe's original version.
This adaptation adds a little more depth to the character of Prince Prospero. In the story, he was simply a man who offered a safe haven from the plague of The Red Death, only to have it invade his castle and destroy everyone within. In the movie, however, he definitely had ulterior motives. Prospero (Price) was a devil-worshiper who planned to offer all of his guests as sacrifices to the Prince of Darkness. In the end, the unknown figure who showed up in the middle of Prospero's masquerade ball, once revealed, shared the Prince's face. I feel like this implied that Prospero himself was the Red Death, because he had brought death and decay to his constituents. Since it took place in the 12th century, his being the Prince gave him reign over all in the villages surrounding his castle. He was not a benevolent man; he was quite evil, cared nothing for his people and killed those who defied him without so much as blinking. In a sense, he was death.
The movie was filled with abduction, betrayal and murder. The part of Prospero was played wonderfully by Vincent Price, and Hazel Court (who played Price's wife in The Raven) played the part of Prospero's most faithful follower. The movie wasn't bad, as I said, but it was missing the depth of the original story. It did have a few deep elements: the implication that Prospero himself represented death. But the original was an allegory for the different stages of human life, with the personified "Red Death" representing an entity that one meets at the last stage. There was a tiny hint of this in the movie, but it wasn't explained quite enough. Yes, the story itself was quite vague and requires a bit of thought to fully comprehend (at least on my part). The movie was just as vague as vague, which I feel only brought it down. It is not a literary work of art; therefore it can't afford to remain so vague to its viewers, especially since it obviously wasn't a complete adaptation. It didn't take absolutely everything from the story; it threw its own plots and back-stories in there, so I feel that it should have explained things a bit better.
Even though they were both quite vague, I felt something deep and meaningful while reading the story that the movie couldn't give me.