The Masque of the Red Death (1964) is Roger Corman's, and most people's, choice as the best of the Edgar Allan Poe pictures. Masque offers the expected creepy atmosphere and violence against peasants, plus metaphysical ponderings and pointed satanic cruelty. (Corman was operating as much under the influence of Ingmar Bergman as of Edgar Allan Poe.) Nicolas Roeg's color cinematography and Daniel Haller's elaborate production design would be stellar in any Hollywood A-movie; the mono-colored rooms of the prince's castle are a startling effect. Vincent Price is in fine fettle as Prince Prospero, the devil-worshipping sadist who throws lavish parties while the countryside is ravaged by the plague. The Premature Burial (1962) substitutes Ray Milland in the usual Price role. He's a snarky landowner (with a sideline in art--dig those mod paintings) haunted by the fear of being buried alive. This single-minded focus limits the film, but it also adds to the smothering sense of anxiety that prevails throughout its unhealthy scenario. Luscious Hazel Court is Milland's new missus, and old-school cameraman Floyd Crosby proves his facility for photographing women in a classical style. Lots of cobwebs-on-candelabra in the customary Corman-Poe manner, with special emphasis on Milland's crypt, with its supposedly foolproof exit schemes. --Robert Horton
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