13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"He Does Not Rule - Alone...",
This review is from: The Masque of the Red Death / The Premature Burial (Midnite Movies Double Feature) (DVD)
Premature Burial may be considered merely an extra, on this DVD - it's passable, but overall not that hot. The real star of the show is Roger Corman's Masque of the Red Death, one of the best of his Poe cycle films. Both movies were co-scripted by genre master Charles Beaumont, a frequent Twilight Zone contributor, the former with assistance from fellow genre master Ray Russell. Premature Burial is the less impressive of the two due to general plot contrivance, which is rather hackneyed and predictable, and Ray Milland simply didn't have the presence for this kind of work that Vincent Price did.
Masque of the Red Death is a very clever rendition of two of Poe's best works, the title story and another lesser-known little piece of nastiness called "Hop-Frog." Price plays the evil fourteenth century Prince Prospero, who safely ensconces all his country's nobles behind his castle's walls to keep them safe from the dreaded plague of the "red death" that is ravaging the populace. Prospero is a decadent and sadistic Satanist, who views his role in the proceedings as that of more or less a diabolical Noah, preserving his own kind until the plague passes. One of his guests - an equally despicable Patrick Magee - is horribly murdered by a dwarf he mocks and despises, constituting the "Hop-Frog" subplot. Prospero, meanwhile, delights in attempting to seduce and degrade innocent Christian peasant girl Jane Asher, much to wife Hazel Court's great ire and dismay. Eventually, an uninvited guest wearing the forbidden color red appears in Prospero and his partygoers' midst, whom Prospero takes to be none other than Satan, himself, come to delight in Prospero's evil handiwork - but who is actually none other than the Red Death, personified, with more than one gruesome surprise for Prospero...
The dialogue and symbolism in Masque of the Red Death are stellar. The Red Death mocks Prospero from behind his mask, hinting at powers and knowledge Prospero only pretends to possess. When Prospero suggests that only Satan could have sent him, since he believes Satan rules the universe, the Red Death wryly responds, "He does not rule - alone..." The concluding exchange between the two, and the gruesome finale of gaudily dressed partiers dying in an off-key, bloody ballet, is brilliant - the whole film is very Ingmar Bergman-esque. The production is top-notch, extremely colorful, with absolutely gorgeous sets and costumes.
Buy it for Masque of the Red Death. You might even enjoy Premature Burial, too.