Masque of the Red Death is a 1989 American horror feature film produced by Roger Corman, and directed by Larry Brand (Paranoia; writer of Halloween: Resurrection; Psychic Murders), starring Adrian Paul (Deadly Descent: The Abominable Snowman; Séance; The Breed) and Patrick Macnee (Transformations; Sweet Sixteen; The Howling).
The Concorde Productions film is a remake of the 1964 horror classic by the same title which was directed by Corman. The screenplay, written by Daryl Haney and Larry Brand, is based upon the classic short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
This should not be confused with the 1989 movie by Alan Birkinshaw that stars Frank Stallone and Brenda Vaccaro.
Machiavel (Patrick Macnee) is a mysterious masked rider in a red cape who roams the countryside of Prince Prospero’s fiefdom. The appearance of the rider is followed by a deadly plague that scars its victims and decimates the peasantry. The rural people are becoming desperate and seek to escape the devastation.
Meanwhile, Prospero (Adrian Paul) barricades himself at his palace, to avoid any villagers entering his immediate domain and disturbing him. He also organizes a masquerade ball where he invites the nobility of his land to participate. Village maidens are also brought into the castle to provide entertainment for his guests. Amongst them is Juliette (Clare Hoak), an innocent peasant girl, who continuously resists the prince’s lustful pursuit.
When Claudio (Jeff Osterhage), the prince’s friend, advises Prospero to stop pursuing Juliette, the angry prince jails them in the dungeons of his palace. Meanwhile, desperate peasants try to breach the defences of Prospero’s castle to escape the Red Death. In response to their attempts to enter the safety of his castle, the prince orders boiling oil to be poured on them from high atop the battlements, scorching many of them to death. The party is in full swing when a mysterious masked man in a red cape joins the festivities unannounced…
“At just over 80 minutes, the pacing does drag at points that could possibly have been livened up by a bit more violence and debauchery. A surprising amount of restraint for a Concorde-era Corman production is shown when it comes to T&A …The red death effects realized by Dean Jones are grislier than the red seeping pores and stained skin of the Corman/Price film but unimpressive by eighties horror standards.” Eric Cotenas, DVD Drive-In
“The original Edgar Allan Poe movies starring Vincent Price are great, but when they made this one, they did something a little different. They not only wanted to portray the Red Death, they wanted to use dead actors for enhanced reality. It’s a pretty amazing feat, all of them talking like they’re dead, moving like they’re dead, even dancing like they’re dead.” Joe Bob Briggs, Orlando Sentinel
“Director Larry Brand … manages to soak this film in late ’80s ambience complete with a soft filtered look throughout, a droning electronic score, and a seemingly endless parade of inappropriate frizzy hair and unconvincing wigs. It’s strange that Corman didn’t ask for the trash value to be escalated considerably here (it’s barely qualifies for its R rating)…” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital
” …despite an interesting approach to the figure of the Red Death and a literate (if talky) script, overall cheapness and very slow pace cripple this medieval melodrama.” Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide
“The grandeur and elegance of Corman’s earlier film are missing: in their place is plentiful dialogue about the cruelty of God and Death and the behaviour of princes.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
Image credits: Mondo Digital