The Guest in Red
Whilst riding through one of his villages Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) comes across one where the peasants are dying from the Red Death plague. Insistent on burning the place down he commands that villagers Gino (David Weston) and Lodovico (Nigel Green) be killed when they confront him over his evil demands. Fortunately the virginal Francesca (Jane Asher) pleads for them and on agreeing to go with Prospero to his castle Gino and Lodovico are spared although taken to his castle prison. At the castle Francesca becomes aware that Prospero is a strange man who worships Satan and has invited nobles to stay at his castle in safety from the plague. At a ball which Prospero throws a mysterious figure cloaked in red shows up which Prospero believes to be Satan himself but soon discovers who the guest in red really is?
I am not a Roger Corman fan; it is a declaration I make because there seems to be two types of Corman fan; those who love his serious movies and those who prefer his more humorous movies. And that split seems to be very clear when you look at some of the reviews written of "The Masque of the Red Death" as some suggest it is Corman's greatest work whilst others think it his worst for being devoid of amusement and far too sober. Personally I find myself in the middle as "The Masque of the Red Death" is like a good looking Hammer movie but one which ends up too serious and requires some natural humour to lift it.
That is really the problem which holds "The Masque of the Red Death" back as here is this great story of Prince Prospero who leads an indulgent life in his castle where he surrounds himself with beauty and lackeys, doing what he pleases and killing when he likes. The whole thing is not only perfect as a vehicle for horror with the creepiness which envelope everything which goes on in the castle but also perfect for just the right amount of lightness so that the movie is not too heavy. But too heavy is exactly what it does end up and as such becomes hard work as it goes from one serious scene to another desperately needing some lighter moments for it to work, to keep you interested.
Despite that the casting is pretty good with Vincent Price well cast as the creepy Prospero and brings plenty of classic horror to the movie with that sinister look. And then there is Jane Asher who with her red hair is attention grabbing whilst doing a nice job of making Francesca both innocent and feisty.
What this all boils down to is that "The Masque of the Red Death" is a solid horror in a castle type movie which benefits greatly from the casting of Vincent Price. But it is a movie which is so heavy in tone it becomes hard work and required just a bit of variation in tone for it to work.