Masque of the Red Death [1964] – [thoughts + spoilers]


Film: Masque of the Red Death [1964]

Setting: Fake Medieval castle

Cast: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher

Director: Roger Corman

Plot: Prince Prospero is on his way back home to his impressive castle when some peasants make loud noises. Irritated, he gets out of his carriage and threatens to kill two men who complain about having no food. Jane Asher begs him for mercy as the two men are her father and love interest. Prospero says mercy is for weaklings, and compares the two men to pet dogs biting the hand of their master, even though biting isn’t really the same as mentioning that people are starving to death.

Luckily, an old woman has red paint on her face nearby, which spooks the Prince enough for him to grab Jane Asher and hole up in his castle with other nobles so they can escape the red death. He also takes the two men as prisoners so they can provide entertainment for him and his guests.

In the castle is something rare, a strong female character, and she’s not happy about Prospero giving her room to a peasant girl. The rest of the film deals with Prospero worshiping Satan and trying to convince Jane Asher that Satan is great, mostly by doing reprehensible things and completely failing to justify them.

Subplot: Another noble called Alfredo hits a dwarf and then gets wine thrown in his face. He then goes into lurk mode and flits about like a bored teenager who’s too bored to even try and sneak into Jane Asher’s room at night and sexually assault her, which is what I thought he would do.

Dwarf subplot: A dwarf watches his female friend, also a dwarf, get hit by Alfredo and plots revenge. His plot: convince Alfredo to dress up as a gorilla for the ball, whip him a bit, tie him to a chandelier then burn him alive. Thanks to Alfredo’s lobotomy before the film, it works.

Hazel Court subplot: Julianna, Prospero’s girlfriend, wants to marry Satan and either be Prospero’s lover forever or supplant him as Satan’s favourite. The idea that Prospero might just be mad seems to escape her.

Another Poe story?

Yes. And there’s still six more to come.

I watched this one after watching The Raven, and honestly, I would’ve watched it even if it wasn’t related to that one as the plot synopsis is so unique.

A Medieval Italian prince worshipping Satan in his castle while the nearby villagers die from the Red Death.

How many modern films even attempt this kind of thing?

Not many.

The plot doesn’t even matter really. The only forward momentum comes from the two men who are captured and have to find a way to escape while also rescuing Jane Asher before she gets brainwashed by Prince Prospero. The bulk of the film consists of Prospero [Vincent Price, in case that wasn’t clear] wandering around his castle, humiliating people, training Julianna in the ways of Satanism and trying to wrap his cultish fingers around the brain of innocent, god-fearing villager, Jane Asher. Continue reading