The Masque of the Red Death (1964 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Masque of the Red Death (1964) is an American International Pictures horror film starring Vincent Price in a tale about a prince who terrorizes a plague-ridden peasantry while merrymaking in a lonely castle with his jaded courtiers. The film was directed by Roger Corman; the screenplay by Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell was based upon an 1842 short story of the same name by American author Edgar Allan Poe. The film is one in a series of eight Corman film adaptations of Poe's works, and incorporates a sub-plot based on another Poe tale, "Hop-Frog". The Masque of the Red Death has been televised in America and has been released on DVD.




The story is set in a semi-mythical medieval Europe. The corrupt Satanist Prince Prospero (Price) invites several dozen of the local nobility to his castle for protection against an oncoming plague, the (fictitious) Red Death. The local peasantry, or anyone that the Prince suspects of being infected by the plague, are killed by crossbow fire outside the castle walls, or their villages are burned to the ground.

Subplots include the abduction and attempted corruption of an innocent Christian peasant girl, played by Jane Asher, the revenge of a dwarf entertainer Hop-Toad upon the brute who abuses his beloved miniature mistress, and the damnation and death of Prince Prospero's consort Juliana (Hazel Court). The film includes one of Corman's distinctive psychedelic dream sequences.

Prospero orders his guests to attend a masked ball, with the stipulation that no one is to wear red. At the ball, amidst a general atmosphere of debauchery and depravity, Prospero notices the entry of a mysterious hooded stranger dressed all in red. Believing the figure to be an ambassador from his master, Satan, Prospero addresses him as "your Excellency". As the ball is transformed into a danse macabre, the red-masked figure asks why Prospero keeps calling him "your Excellency," declaring "I have no title". Realizing his error, Prospero rips off the red mask, revealing his own face.

The figure is not an emissary of Satan, but the Red Death himself, declaring that "When you look into the face of Death, you see yourself. Each man makes God for himself — his own heaven, his own hell."

Prospero attempts to flee through the now-infected crowd, but his red-cloaked self is always in front of him. The Red Death finally corners him, asks him, "Why are you afraid to die, Prospero? Your soul died a long time ago", and strikes him down.

In an epilogue, the Red Death is playing with his Tarot cards with a young child, smiling as he shows her a card. He then picks up the cards and puts the deck in his robes as other similarly cloaked figures gather around him, each wearing a different colour: the "Green Death", the "Yellow Death", the "Black Death", etc... They discuss among themselves the numbers of people each of them had 'claimed' that day, each remorseful of their endless terrible task. When asked of his work, the Red Death says to them "I claimed many, only six remain." The cloaked figures then file offscreen in a grim procession.


Awards and nominations


  • Dell Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film.


See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Masque of the Red Death (1964 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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