Masque of the Red Death, The (1964)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964), produced and directed by Roger Corman.

For the Blu-ray I'll comment on an earlier review.


When a virulent plague ravages the countryside, accomplished satanist Prince Prospero seals off his castle and revels with his noble guests, staging sadistic and degrading entertainments. He has a pure young Christian woman from the village who he intends to debase, defile, corrupt and perhaps convert to his side.

I see Prospero differently this time. He seems to be falling in love with innocent Francesca (Jane Asher, age 17). Much as he mocks her faith, he admires her courage and steadfastness.


He has made one terrible miscalculation: he believes that his dark worship gives him power over death, but as it turns out Death does not work for the Devil...

I presumed this implied Death actually works for God, but as the commentary track points out, the film doesn't say that. In this dark vision, it could be that Death rules the entire universe. It is the only thing that terrifies Prospero.


This must be Corman's most ambitious and colorful Poe adaptation. It has some good scenes and a quality of dark fable about it. A memorable setup is a sequence of differently colored rooms used in several scenes.

And yet: it was better in memory and seemed much more ominous in my youth. Vincent Price is very broad; I don't remember many subtle performances from him after he became a horror specialist.

That's harsh. Seeing more of the Corman Poe-cycle recently has made me appreciate Price's style as part of the genre.


The revelers seem contemporary and cardboard. And yet I rewatch it from time to time.

I fear I am still not buying the dress-up costumes and modern hair-care of the extras. On the other hand: the Red and other "Deaths" are quite fine and elevate the film to an almost Bergmanesque level.


Patrick Magee is always reliably sinister and is good at these maliciously decadent roles (A Clockwork Orange (1971): "Food good? Try the wine!")

Photographed by Nicolas Roeg. Made in the UK.

...made in the UK to save money. Filmed in Path├ęcolor (= Eastmancolor).


The plot is a combination of the title story and Hop-Frog, both by Poe.

Later. I've seen a lot more of Jane Asher since I wrote this:

Her history with Paul McCartney deserves a film treatment.

Available on Blu-ray. It has a fact-filled commentary track, although a lot of the time is spent on background, biographies and unrelated films.