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The Masque of the Red Death

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The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price, by Roger Corman
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The Masque of the Red Death (1964) starring Vincent Price, Hazel Court

Synopsis of The Masque of the Red Death

Buy from Amazon While the plague rages outside in the small Italian province, the Satan-worshipping prince stays confined to the sanctuary of his castle with his aristocratic guests. Inside, all is revelry and cruelty until, during the great masque which crowns the prince’s entertainment, the “Red Death” enters the dance and the guests succumb to the plague… one by one. Based on the classic tale by Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

Review of The Masque of the Red Death

Vincent Price as the wicked Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death

In short, The Masque of the Red Death is an excellent film by Roger Corman. It deals with a wicked, self-centered Prince in medieval Europe, He’s a Satan worshipper who — despite what he says — fears death. He hides in his castle, and invites his fellow nobility to join him. To wait out the plague of the Red Death with debauchery and self-pleasure.

One of his “friends” comes to the castle for safety … And the heartless Prospero has him killed, after mocking both him and his wife:

Prospero: The Red Death is laying waste to the countryside!
Scarlatti: The Red Death? I beg you, Prospero, sanctuary!
Prospero: This is no church!

Vincent Price as Prospero, Jane Asher as Francescca, in The Masque of the Red Death

Prospero takes three survivors from the village, to torment and amuse himself with. The girl, Francesca, has faith in God. And Prospero is determined to corrupt her. Her father and boyfriend are little more than fodder for the nobles’ amusement. But Gino is thrown out of the castle, and meets a mysterious man in a red robe:

Gino: [thinking the Man in Red is a monk] My God… my God!
Man in red: Who is… your God?
Gino: The true one.
Man in red: [softly] Yes…

The Man in Red talking with Gino

The man in red appears multiple times, and has a very important role to play. As the final masquerade — the titular Masque of the Red Death — he reveals himself to Prospero:

Man in red: I have no title. Why do you call me “Excellency”?
Prospero: Well, I thought that as the ambassador of Satan…
Man in red: He is not my master. Death has no master.

Prospero (Vincent Price) among the dead and dying in his castle in The Masque of the Red Death

And despite his words to this point, Prospero is clearly terrified of death. And is in no hurry to be united with Satan for all eternity.

The Masque of the Red Death is a good horror, though imperfect. One thing that sticks out is Francesca’s quiet acquiescence to Prospero.

Cast of characters

  • Prince Prospero (Vincent PriceThe Abominable Dr. Phibes).  Unlike many of his roles, there is no redeeming qualities in Prospero.  He is pure evil, a man who delights in inflicting pain.  Both physical and emotional pain, at every opportunity.  He literally worships Satan, and foolishly expects Satan to protect him from the plague …  The Red Death.
  • Juliana (Hazel Court, The Raven 1963). Prospero’s consort, who’s jealous of any other attractive woman.  Another devil worshipper, who meets her just rewards in a gruesome scene.
  • Francesca (Jane Asher, Alfie).  In some ways, Prospero’s opposite.  A poor peasant, with faith in God and the cross.  Which offends Prospero.  He intends to corrupt her, step by step, until she’s a “fitting” companion.
  • Gino (David Weston, Becket).  Francesca’s boyfriend — which along with his attitude makes him a target for Prospero.  But after multiple trials, he escapes, and attempts to rescue Francesca.  However, he follows the advice of a mysterious man in a red cloak and lives to the end.
  • Ludovico (Nigel Green, Jason and the Argonauts).  Francesca’s father, and Gino’s friend.  The two friends refuse to fight each other for Prospero’s amusement, so the prince has another “amusement”.  And Ludovico gives his all to protect his friend and his daughter
  • Alfredo (Patrick Magee, Dementia 13).  One of the many “nobles” that Prospero invited to wait out the plague in his castle.  A man who is also cruel, and hurts the dwarf Esmeralda multiple times …
  • Esmeralda (Verina Greenlaw, The Six Wives of Henry VIII).  The dwarf dancer, loved by Hop-Toad, and abused by Alfredo.
  • Hop-Toad (Skip Martin, Vampire Circus).  The other dwarf dancer, who is in love with Esmeralda.  He’s very intelligent, and patient.  And he plans his revenge against Alfredo, which is frankly enjoyable

Editorial review of The Masque of the Red Death

The evil Prince Prospero is riding through the Catania village when he sees that the peasants are dying of the Red Death plague. Prospero asks to burn down the village and he is offended by the villagers Gino and his father-in-law Ludovico. He decides to kill them, but Gino’s wife, the young and beautiful Francesca, begs for the lives of her husband and her father and Prospero brings them alive to his castle expecting to corrupt Francesca. Propero worships Satan and invites his noble friends to stay in his castle that is a shelter of depravity against the plague. When Prospero invites his guests to attend a masked ball, he sees a red hooded stranger and he believes that Satan himself has attended his party. But soon he learns who his mysterious guest is. …The Masque of the Red Death

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