CANNON MONTH 2: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death (1989)

No, not the Roger Corman-produced and Larry Brand-directed The Masque of the Red Death, which also came out in 1989.

Much like Corman, Menahem Golan probably realized the public domain status of Poe’s works (well, Corman did that twice with the first being a classic, 1964’s The Masque of the Red Death). This was produced by Avi Lerner and Harry Alan Towers for Golan’s nascent 21st Century Film Corporation.

It’s directed by Alan Birkinshaw, who made Ten Little Indians and Ordeal by Innocence for Cannon, as well as Don’t Open ’Til Christmas and another Poe-inspired film that was released the same year, Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. The script came from Michael J. Murray, whose career went from making those two Poe movies that Birkinshaw directed — on the same sets in South Africa no less — to TV movies about Madonna and Michael Jordan to, as always with genre filmmakers, holiday movies.

Rebecca (Michelle McBride, Subspecies) has snuck into a very exclusive costume party — dressed in a Cupid costume that sadly does her no favors nor does it look like Cuipid — being put on by Ludwig (Herbert Lom, in a role originally written for Jack Palance) that will celebrate Poe’s Masque of the Red Death with one goal: get an interview with soap opera star Elaina Hart (Brenda Vaccaro!?!). Meanwhile, as everyone engages in an Easter egg hunt — you know how much Poe’s horrific gothic fiction was based on Easter eggs right? — a red cloaked and masked figure starts slashing everyone into oblivion.

About fifteen minutes into this movie, Becca asked me how it was and I was just about to say dreadful but then — you guessed it — Frank Stallone showed up as a duke named Duke and a keyboard-driven rock band with a lead singer with star sunglasses takes the stage to play the schmaltziest of music and I said, “How the fuck have Vinegar Syndrome not released this?”

In fact, no one has. This hasn’t even come out on DVD yet.

Ludwig’s girlfriend Colette is played by Christine Lunde who was the girl in Heaven 17’s video for “Trouble,” plus she’s also in MankillersPatty Hearst and Young Rebels. Her accent is, at best, impenetrable and I love every single line she says in this, a mixture of babygirl cooing and an approximation of English that shortcircuited YouTube’s predictive closed captioning.

This movie is bafflingly wonderful as it can be both good and bad in equal measure. Sure, most normal people would hate it, but someone said to me the other night that they’re very impressed by my defense of movies that other people look down upon. This has a game of human chess, slashings inspired by Poe stories, Herbert Lom being Herbert Lom, the worst French accents ever, neo-punk dancers, choreographer Neil McKay and the Razzle Jazzle Dance Company (who also show up in Brutal Glory and Outlaw of Gor), Ludwig turning to a secret female doctor who injects him with age-defying medicine in a sub-plot that is forgotten, the songs “Twilight Zone,””I Can Rely On You,”, “Magical Mystery” and “Where Do We Go From Here,” a black cat that drops in out of nowhere just to give this a jump scare, a concluding catfight and a murder by loom.

“So much misery. So much madness,” says Ludwig at one point. Not for me. This is the kind of movie you’d rent in the early 90s or happen upon on cable in the middle of the night and then keep thinking of it for years.

I loved this movie. Loved. My devotion to movies like this is why I’ll never get to be an approved Rotten Tomatoes reviewer but man, screw that site and how its logo ruins DVD cover art.

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