After a very long wait, Studiocanal UK is unleashing their UK Blu-ray of Roger Corman’s 1964 horror classic The Masque of the Red Death, in a brand-new 4K restoration on 25 January 2021. Here’s a closer look.
When Shout Factory released their North American Blu-ray of The Masque of the Red Death in September 2020, it included not only the theatrical cut (which they had originally released in 2013) but also the 4K extended cut, which had premiered at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival in 2019.
It’s been a long wait for fans here in the UK, but Studiocanal is releasing both edits as part of their Vintage Classics label.
The 4K restoration was undertaken in 2018 by Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation and The Academy Film Archive (with the George Lucas Family Foundation).
Missing censored scenes from both the UK and US prints have been seamlessly re-conformed in a new archive print. This was based on the UK Technicolor print (approved by Roeg in the 1960s) held in the Joe Dante/Jon Davison Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
The 4K scanning and image restoration was carried out by Roundabout Entertainment in Burbank, California, while Audio Mechanics undertook the audio restoration.
This restoration is an utter joy, bringing renewed life to Nicolas Roeg’s sumptuous, colourful cinematography and the opulent production design by Danny Haller (who worked on nearly all of the Corman/Poe films).
Key to the restoration is the reinstatement of the censored scenes, which resulted in different versions of the film being released in the UK and the US in 1964. While only minor cuts were made to the US version the appease the National Legion of Decency (the illusion of nudity and some possibly blasphemous words: ‘Alleluia’ and ‘Each man creates his own God for himself’), the BBFC required several big cuts.
Removed were Juliana (Hazel Court) worshipping Satan at an altar, a gorilla-suited Alfredo (Patrick Magee) rolling around on the ground with a scantily-clad woman, footage of a bloodied Juliana after the falcon attack, and her entire demonic dream sequence. The story behind these cuts is expertly discussed in the booklet that accompanies the release.
While Studiocanal’s Blu-ray does include English subtitles for the hard of hearing, there are no other language options for our European fans. Also missing is a Roger Corman audio commentary (which is listed as an Extra on the Amazon and Zavvi listings). And it would have been a real coup to have included the original soundtrack (released on CD by Quartet Records in 2018). However, you do get the following extras.
Colour and Censorship in The Masque of The Red Death
Keith Johnston, a lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia University, looks at the significance of colour in Poe’s original story and how Corman and Nicolas Roeg drew on that for the film’s striking colour palette. Johnston also explores the colour differences in the original UK and US prints in relation to the different film stocks used (Technicolor in the UK and Eastmancolor in the US), and the creation of the new archive print based on the Technicolor release print.
Kim Newman and Sean Hogan Audio Commentary
This new audio commentary was done specifically for the Restored Extended Cut. Both Newman and Hogan give their own personal take on the film and its legacy and have much fun doing so. Missing however is a detailed insight from the duo about the reinstated censored scenes. And it’s just too bad Corman’s audio commentary didn’t get made, as it would have answered many of the questions they raise here.
Roger Corman: In Conversation with Kim Newman at the BFI
This 90-minute interview was conducted at the BFI Southbank on 25 October 2013 as part of the BFI’s Gothic season. It’s a brisk look at Corman’s prolific 60-year career concentrating mostly on his celebrated Poe cycle with Vincent Price. It also touches on Corman’s racial integration drama The Intruder, his sci-fi classic The Man with the X-ray Eyes, his Gothic oddity The Terror, and his counterculture films of the 1960s. Clips included are from A Bucket of Blood, The Fall of the House of Usher (trailer) and Tomb of Ligeia. Check out a clip below.
Roger Corman: Behind the Masque
This 19-minute interview ported over from the 2002 MGM DVD release sees Corman discussing the Poe films, paying particular attention to The Masque of the Red Death. It looks like new clips from Red Death have been added, which makes the aspect ratio a bit off. But I don’t have the MGM DVD to compare.
Original US Theatrical Trailer & Behind the Scenes Still Gallery
The US trailer (unrestored) is a hoot; while the Gallery comprises eight behind-the-scenes stills, including Vincent and Jane Asher shopping in London’s famed Portobello Road.
Collector’s Booklet (20 pages)
Tessa Idelwine, a film preservationist at The Academy, gives an in-depth account of the film’s restoration. This is a must-read, and aside from the stunning restoration print this is the reason to add Studiocanal’s Blu-ray to your collection.
Also included are four art cards.
The Masque of the Red Death is available to own on Blu-ray from 25 January 2021