The Masque of the Red Death (1964) Poster

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Price at his Most Wicked!
BaronBl00d26 September 1999
Roger Corman has done an outstanding job with this film, possibly the best of his Poe adaptations. Although the film really is an incorporation of two Poe stories....The Masque of the Red Death and is an excellent, atmospheric, quality piece of entertainment. At the core of the film's strength are the performance of Price as the evil, malignant, malicious Prince Prospero, follower of the devil and cruel sovereign of an area plagued with a all-consuming Red Death, and the fabulous period sets and costumes, many borrowed from the film Beckett. Price is at his best, and his turn as Prospero easily ranks as his most sinister and wicked performance(closely running against his portrayal of a witch hunter in The Conquerer Worm). Vincent Price blends outrageous showmanship with intricate subtleties of a man reasoning why he is what he is. The dialogue certainly is more important than the action in the story...a reason why some viewers(younger ones more than likely) will find film a bit tiresome. The sets and costumes are just gorgeous and the film looks like the most lavish ever made by Corman and company. A true modern masterpiece of the horror cinema!
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A slap in the face for Corman's critics! An atmospheric and imaginative adaptation of one of Poe's most intriguing stories.
Infofreak30 January 2003
Roger Corman frequently gets a hard time from misguided movie snobs who look down on b-grade and exploitation movies. While Corman undoubtedly was involved in more than his fair share of silly schlock (usually as a producer rather than a director), he also made some wonderful movies that are criminally underrated. Some of his best movies as a director were the series of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations he made in the Sixties starring horror legend Vincent Price. 'The Masque Of The Red Death' is quite possibly the very best in the series. It is certainly the most unusual and imaginative. Now I'm not sure whether it was filmed in Britain or not, but Price is supported by a largely British cast which includes Jane Asher ('The Stone Tape'), Hazel Court (Hammer's 'Curse Of Frankenstein'), and the legendary character actor Patrick Magee ('Dementia 13', 'A Clockwork Orange'). That and the fact that the cinematographer is none other than Nic Roeg(!), later to become famous for such classics as 'Performance', 'Don't Look Now' and 'The Man Who Fell To Earth', leads me to believe that it was made in England. The involvement of the aforementioned, and a strong script co-written by the talented Charles Beaumont (try and track down some of his short stories, you'll be impressed), make this a memorable experience. But Corman's direction should be given credit, and the single best thing about it is Vincent Price himself, who gives one of his very best performances. This movie has it all, striking visuals, an intriguing plot (with a stronger Satanic theme than generally seen in most mainstream horror movies), good acting, suspense, plenty of atmosphere, and some striking dream-like imagery many have compared to Bergman's 'Seventh Seal'. 'The Masque Of The Red Death' is one of Roger Corman's greatest achievements and one of the very best horror movies made in the 1960s. It has lost very little of its impact over the years and is still essential viewing for any horror fan, or anybody who appreciates imaginative cinema.
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Bold, Daring, Lurid.
hitchcockthelegend4 May 2010
Visually appealing and trippy in its telling, The Masque of the Red Death is a very acquired taste. Directed by Roger Corman, the film stars Vincent Price as the diabolical Prince Prospero who holds fear over a plague infested peasantry while jollying it up in his castle. The screenplay by Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell is based upon a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe, while part of the film contains a story arc based on another Poe tale titled Hop-Frog. It's the 7th of 8 Corman film adaptations of Poe's works.

Sinister yet beautiful (Nicolas Roeg genius like on photography), "Red Death" has proved to be the most divisive of all the Corman/Poe adaptations. Choosing to forgo blood in favour of black magic dalliance and general diabolism, the film is arguably the most ambitious of all Corman's love affairs with Poe's literary works. With Price gleefully putting gravitas of meanness into Prospero, the film also greatly benefits from the intelligent input to the script from Beaumont (many Twilight Zone credits). This is, strangely, an intellectual type of horror film, offering up observations on the indiscrimination of death and proclaiming that cruelty is but merely a way of life.

God, Satan and a battle of faith, are all luridly dealt with as the story reaches its intriguing and memorable closure. It's a very tough film to recommend with confidence, and certainly it's not a film one wishes to revisit too often (myself having viewed it only twice in 30 years!). However, the one thing that is a cast iron certainty is that it's unlike most horror film's from the 60s. It's also one of Price's best performances. Gone is the camp and pomposity that lingered on many of his other horror characterisations, in its place is pure menace of being. A devil dealer shuffling his pack for all his sadistic worth.

You may feel afterwards that you must have eaten some weird mushrooms, or that the last glass of wine was one too many? You are however unlikely to forget "The Masque of the Red Death" in a hurry. 7/10
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Jane Strikes Out Vincent
Dan1863Sickles29 May 2004
Baseball writers like to say that while fans pay to see home runs, it's actually pitching that wins ball games. The great teams are always strong up the middle, whether a power hitter is in the line-up or not.

Vincent Price was the Babe Ruth of horror. Always at his chilling best, he gave hundreds of brilliant performances, but made only a handful of good movies. Why? He always hit home runs, yet most of the time he had to be the whole show. Evil was alive in his movies but good was either shadowy or non-existent.

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is a masterpiece because for once Vincent is up against goodness that is rich, alluring, attractive and unique. Jane Asher gives an indelible performance as Francesca, the village girl who refuses to be cowed or corrupted by the suave, satanic lord. Though so waif-like and fragile that she could almost be a child, the beautiful redhead has the courage of her convictions and the real dignity of innocence.

Watch the early scene where she is roughly undressed by handmaidens and forced into a hot bath in order to become more ladylike. Evil Count Prospero comes in to leer at her, of course, and she confronts him. While the steamy sensuality is certainly there, the astonishing thing is the dignity with which Francesca conducts herself. Once the evil lord is gone, she rises from her bath (discreetly wrapped in a towel) and announces to Prospero's jaded mistress Juliana, "I will do what I must to save my men. But if they die, I will die -- and so will Prince Prospero."

For once Vincent Price has something to work against, and the result is the richest, most colorful and rewarding film of his career. In the story line Jane strikes out Vincent, as Prospero is ultimately defeated -- but for once the slugger is playing on a World Series team.
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A brilliant tale of `intellectual' evil. Probably Corman's finest achievement!
Coventry3 March 2004
Who ever said Roger Corman is a no-good director, only capable of shooting sleazy quickies??? All the amateur-critics who live by this statement should urgently watch `The Masque of the Red Death' and reconsider. True, Corman depended on a magnificent and professional crew here.but it remains his achieving mostly. First and foremost, the most thrilling Edgar Allen Poe short story sets the right tone. Out of his entirely brilliant oeuvre, this fable is probably the most horrifying one. The over-talented Charles Beaumont adapted this into a compelling and intense script and the wholesome is wonderfully cinematographed by Nicolas Roeg. The same Roeg who went on making cool movies himself like `Don't Look Now' or `Track 29' to only name a few.Last but certainly not least, the legendary Vincent Price gives away one of the most stunning performances in his rich career.

The Masque of the Red Death is the greatest and most ambitious film in Corman's Poe cycle and therefore it should get all the credit and praising it can possibly get. The atmosphere this film breathes is the most horrifying one I ever witnessed and the fable's theme is pure terror! Vincent Price is the absolute top as the wealthy servant of Satan who thinks his safely locked away in his castle while the plague of the Red Death crosses through the countryside.killing all the poor villagers. Inside the walls of his ghoulish castle (with the scariest cellars you'll ever see), Price entertains a group of rich and spoiled bastards by thinking up diabolical games and throwing eccentric parties. He's convinced that Satan protects him and that the plague of the Red Death can't do any harm. `The Masque of Red Death' does something here that is practically unique! There where all other horror movies can't fulfill in telling a satanic tale without showing a huge amount of bloodshed, Corman's film achieves this effect easily thanks to its atmosphere, its intelligent structure and side plots, the costumes and scenery and the beautiful use of colors. There's a genius scene in which a possessed Hazel Court walks from chamber to chamber.each of them shown in a different color. In short.The Masque of Red Death belongs to the absolute top of horror cinema ever! One of the most fascinating films of the sixties and the ideal proof that horror will never see highlights like this anymore.
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An American Classic
El_Rey_De_Movies3 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those movies whose reputation and stature has grown over the years, and deservedly so. From the wonderful sets and costumes that are awash in color, to the eerie and bombastic score, all the way through to the Bergman-inspired ending, this film is a classic. But towering over the direction by Corman, the set design by Haller, and the cinematography by Roeg is the performance of Vincent Price as Prospero. Here is a man who has seen the pain and evil in the world, who is a humanist in the sense that he believes that we must all be true to our natures and because of this he cannot accept that the world is ruled by a benevolent God. His friend and companion Alfredo, played by Patrick Magee, agrees with him but there are still subtle differences between them. Prospero has turned, not to what he considers evil, but to what he considers truth and understanding because he just can't believe that God would allow so much pain and misery in a world that He made - therefore, God is dead and the world is ruled by Satan. Alfredo, on the other hand, is a cruel and sadistic sycophant who is constantly on the lookout for more 'entertainment', whether thru torture or sex...or both. The inclusion of the story of Hop-Toad and the dancer is a masterstroke in that it lengthens and deepens the movie while also providing a highly deserving comeuppance to Alfredo. Jane Asher as the peasant girl, Francesca, starts by despising Prospero as a tyrant but in the ending ballroom sequence she feels pity for him, and you know that Prospero has achieved his aim with her: she is no longer innocent. See how much meaning you can wring out of a low-budget horror movie? As for the transfer, excellent with vivid colors and a strong Dolby Digital mono soundtrack. The only drawback, and it's a minor one, is that there's no commentary track from Corman - that would have been a delight. Still, this is probably one of the top ten best American horror movies ever made.
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superb Poe adaptation
didi-512 March 2004
Possibly the best of the Roger Corman-Vincent Price series of film adaptations of the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, 'The Masque of the Red Death' is a chilling and malevolent tale of decadent devil-worshippers holed up in a castle while the Red Death claims its victims in the village outside.

Vincent Price was a gloriously hammy actor who played horror roles with the utmost seriousness. His characterization of Prince Prospero in this movie is brilliant - a man without a soul or heart who is only conquered when a girl of equal faith enters his castle (the wooden Jane Asher as Francesca). In support Hazel Court as the would-be Bride of Satan Juliana, and Patrick Magee as the corrupt Alfredo are particularly worthy of note.

The dwarf's revenge on Alfredo during the masque is as chilling as anything which came before in films such as 1932's 'Freaks'; while the film shimmers with beautiful cinematography (especially the coloured rooms) and simmers with corruption. The combined effect is superb and makes the film a memorable experience.
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I can't believe Roger Corman directed this masterpiece!
Casey-5217 October 2000
For those of you who are fans of director Roger Corman's classic 50s sci-fi films like ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, or THE WASP WOMAN, you are going to be surprised that this is the same man who directed MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. Superbly directed and beautifully composed, MASQUE is the first and best of Corman's Poe films of the 1960's.

Prince Prospero (played with just enough venom by Vincent Price) is an evil tyrant who hates his citizens and thinks nothing of burning their village to the ground. Holding a weekend get-together for his noble acquaintances, he discovers that the Red Death has manifested itself in the village around his castle. He kidnaps the beautiful Francesca (the wonderful Jane Asher), her lover Gino, and her father and keeps them in the castle with him. Prospero is a Satan worshipper as well and forces the princess, Juliana, to brand herself with an upside-down cross and sics his falcon on her when he feels like it. All the while, the Red Death decimates the land outside the castle and eventually makes its grand entrance during a masque.

Corman has certainly matured over the years. His filmmaking techniques are no longer shoestring or cheap. Here, it is obvious that he has developed a taste for color, atmosphere, tone, and lighting. MASQUE features his best work as a director and is only rivalled, in my opinion, by TALES OF TERROR, a later Poe anthology. Vincent Price proves once again why he has won the hearts of genre fans everywhere. I can only compare his performance here to that in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, only better. Jane Asher does a splendid job here, but Hazel Court, Hammer's resident scream queen, has little to do here as Juliana. The final images of the film set during the masque are breathtaking and will stun those expecting cheap gothic thrills a la THE UNDEAD, an earlier Corman work.

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is very deserving of a new VHS/DVD release. Fans of Price or Corman should definitely seek this out, as it is probably both mens' greatest work. Highly recommended.
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A wonderful blend of surreal imagery and pure terror
The_Void7 January 2005
For this entry in his Poe series, Roger Corman decided to move the production to England. Not for artistic reasons, just because films made in England at that time got a government subsidy, and thus keeping his costs down. That's what I love about Corman - he brings a whole new meaning to the term 'penny pinching', and on the whole he has proved to cinema audiences the world over that great films don't need massive budgets and can excel on a shoestring. The Masque of the Red Death is another triumph over low budget, and sees horror's premier team of Vincent Price, Roger Corman and, of course, Edgar Allen Poe team up to great effect once again. This Poe story follows the evil Prince Prospero, a man who believes that his master, the Lord of Flies (Satan to you and me), will grant him and his friends that are taking refuge in his castle safety from the disease known as the 'red death' that is laying waste to the surrounding towns and villages.

This is a very different production to the earlier films in Corman's Poe cycle. The sets are much more lavish and on the whole, it's on a much larger scale. This also marks something of a departure for the Poe protagonist. As usual, he's portrayed by Vincent Price (the finest horror actor to ever live) but unlike the parts he'd played for Corman so far, this character is a strong and malicious presence, and therefore a far cry from the more pathetic characters he played films like 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and 'The Pit and the Pendulum'. As usual, however, Price approaches this role with relish and completely makes it his own. His malicious tone fits the Prince Prospero character like a glove, and you cannot imagine anyone but Price in the role. The character is a typical Poe labyrinth and helps to maintain the interest and malicious intent that the film presents for it's running time.

The story is one of absolute terror, and through Corman's surreal use of colours and atmosphere, he makes the best of it and the result is a truly terrifying tale of faith, disease and death. There are many macabre events in the film, but none of them go over the top with gore, nor are they especially sleazy. The film is consistent throughout, and it's obvious that everyone involved knew exactly what they wanted to achieve with it. The story revolves around having faith, whether it be faith in God or indeed in the Devil. The Masque of the Red Death professes that every man creates his own hell, and the way that is presented on screen is magnificent, just like the rest of this great film.
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A horror classic long forgotten
apenecksweeney31 March 2001
One of my favorite horror movies of all time -- and one of Roger Corman's best films, if not his best. The plot adaption from the original Poe story is fantastic, expanding on the plot to make it into a full length film without taking it out of the bounds of Poe's vision. The cast is great too. Price adds a sadistic, morbid class to the film, perfectly believable as the devil-worshipping Prospero. It reminded me of the days when he used to appear in history/literature films, like Elizabeth and Essex or the Three Musketeers. Jane Asher is great as the distressed peasant with a good heart, slowly being corroded by Prospero.

The wardrobe is another plus -- the ballroom outfits and masquerade attire does have one glaring mistake, but is fitting overall. The final scene is absolutely great film-making. The low budget of the film doesn't impede a true romantically creepy climax.

Unique and done very well.
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Possibly the Best Corman film
theowinthrop31 October 2006
When Edgar Allan Poe wrote THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, I keep thinking he was thinking about some classic literature of the past. First, he is taking (and inverting) the basic plot of Boccacio's collection of short stories THE DECAMERON. If you recall, ten young people (five men and five women) of aristocratic families go to the country to avoid the plague in Florence. They entertain each other by each telling ten stories a night to the others - mostly dealing with love. They survive the plague as a result. Poe's Prince takes all his friends and fellow aristocrats out of a plague drenched countryside and they go to his castle in the hills. But at the end they all die. The other classic story is William Shakespeare's final great play, THE TEMPEST, wherein the master of the island and of all the elements nature (which he controls as a wizard) is Prospero, former Duke of Milan (pronounced Millon). Here, the Prince Prospero is unable to control nature and all die as a result.

The story THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is about the inevitability of fate and death - nobody can avoid it, no matter how hard they build up walls, and in the end they end up searching out for it (and finding it).

Roger Corman, as I mentioned in discussing his film about Richard III, took to Edgar Allan Poe as no other major director of horror had before him. But he had to expand it. Poe only wrote one novel, THE NARRATIVE OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM OF NANTUCKET (although he tried to do a second one called THE JOURNAL OF JULIUS RODMAN). Most of his writings are short stories, poetry, one play, and essays of criticism or philosophy. His best short stories are meant to be read within one hour or two at most. A great story, like THE TELL-TALE HEART, can be read with forty minutes, as it's story line is fairly concise and it is the choice and sound of words that carries it's best affects (i.e., the sound of the heart of the victim). So a filmed record of a Poe story should really be about thirty minutes tops, as visual effects replace (or enhance) the verbal ones.

Corman, therefore, had to expand the story line - good as Poe made it originally. First, he makes Prospero a Satan worshiper and sadist. Then, he adds a mild subplot involving one of Prospero's guests (Alfredo - Patrick Magee) and Prospero's dwarf jester Hop - Toad (Skip Martin), which is actually the plot of Poe's story HOP-FROG. There is also two expansions of the plot tied to the Prince: his kidnapping of Francesca (Jane Asher), Gino (David Weston) and Ludovico (Nigel Green) and the doomed hope of Juliana (Hazel Court) to achieve the goals of total acceptance by Satan in order to secure her hold on Prospero.

The end result is not bloated, phony-Poe, but a serious philosophical debate that the evil Prospero actually articulates: He explains to Francesca that he became a Satanist because of serious questions he had about the validity of Christianity. He sees the world as a mess, kept in order only by the powerful and wealthy. He feels that the God of Christianity (of "Love") is actually dead - killed centuries before. Whatever is running the world is not a God of Love. Francesca, of course, is a simpler type who keeps insisting that love and hope make life far more pleasant and bearable than Prospero's view implies. She is as set in her views as he is in his. This philosophical balance remains to the end, although until the end does come through, Francesca actually commits herself to trying to see it from Prospero's point of view (a very remarkable willingness to get a complete view of things - but she never does have to follow through with this offer).

Is there some truth to Prospero's viewpoint? Many viewers are turned off by his willingness to make sadistic tests and punishments (even sadistic "joke" games on his willing guests). But what do people like Francesca and Gino, despite their love, have to look forward to? The townspeople who die at the hands of the Red Death had very poor, awful lives (it's the Middle Ages folks), and at the end the Red Death and his fellow deaths comment that at least they brought peace to the people who died. But that hardly seems a worthwhile conclusion or goal. Die and you'll be peaceful and happy? While Satanism is no answer, certainly some way of pushing up living standards would be.

The film holds up very nicely, and leaves one thinking at the end - what is the point of balance that makes life more than mere temporary existence and actually worth living? It is certainly one of the most thought provoking horror films Corman created.
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Each Man Makes His Own Heaven and His Own Hell
claudio_carvalho3 October 2014
The evil Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) is riding through the Catania village when he sees that the peasants are dying of Red Death plague. Prospero asks to burn down the village and he is offended by the villagers Gino (David Weston) and his father-in-law Ludovico (Nigel Green). He decides to kill them, but Gino's wife, the young and beautiful Francesca (Jane Asher), 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" is a stylish movie directed by Roger Corman, with wonderful cinematography by Nicolas Roeg and based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. Vincent Price has a great performance in the role of an evil Prince that worships Satan and learns that Death has no master and that each man makes his own Heaven and his own Hell. The Death is very similar to the character dressed in black of Ingmar Bergman's "Det sjunde inseglet" (a.k.a. "the Seventh Seal"). My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "A Orgia da Morte" ("The Orgy of the Dearh")
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Bunuel197614 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoiler Alert On this, my third viewing of the most sumptuous-looking of Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, I was struck most by the similarities it has with Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece, THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957).

Of course, I had known beforehand of Corman's admiration for Bergman's films and that film in particular was definitely a reference point for this film's overall 'look'. Consequently, the fact that Corman may have intentionally intended THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH as as sort of homage to Bergman's 'medieval' films – not just THE SEVENTH SEAL but also perhaps THE MAGICIAN aka THE FACE (1958) and THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960) – makes the film stand out quite strongly among the Corman/Poe adaptations.

However, the similarities between THE SEVENTH SEAL and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH are not merely confined to the stylized look of the two films but extend also to several plot points, namely:

· In MASQUE, Prospero (Vincent Price)'s relationship with Alfredo (Patrick Magee) is very volatile: seemingly conspiratory and in tune in their love of sin and debauchery, but also frequently condescending and ruled by their position in society as a royal and his subject; in THE SEVENTH SEAL, the same ambiguity can been seen to inform the relationship between the Knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) and his Squire Jons (Gunnar Bjornstand).

· Towards the end of the film, Gino (David Weston) meets Death (unknowingly) under the trees and, in a moment of despair, confesses his doubts about succeeding in saving Francesca (Jane Asher) from Prospero's castle; early on in the film, when Antonius Block goes to confession, he mistakes the figure of Death (who is with his back to him) for a priest and subsequently reveals his strategy by which he would have beaten Death at their ongoing chess game.

· In the final sequence, the Red Death is seen playing cards with the little girl from the village; in their first meeting, Antonius Block tries to buy some time for himself by challenging Death to a game of chess which continues throughout the various confrontations they have in the film.

· The Red Death finally catches up with Prospero and his minions when he visits the castle during a masked ball; Death knocks (for the last time) on Antonius Block's castle door where the latter has joined his wife for one last, solemn supper.

· The films end with a procession of both the Survivors [Francesca, Gino and the little girl in MASQUE; Jof (Nils Poppe), Mia (Bibi Anderssen) and their child in SEAL] and the Damned [the variously cloaked Deaths walking slowly away in MASQUE; Death leading his victims onward in SEAL).

· The Plague features prominently in both movies.

· The differences between agnosticism, faith and the loss thereof, and mistaken beliefs (e.g. Satanism) is a theme which features strongly in both films.

While THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is certainly among the best of both Corman's and Price's films, I still prefer THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964) to it and personally I can't wait for MGM/UA's jam-packed dirt-cheap DVD edition coming out in August! Consequently, it is all the more disappointing that Corman has recorded Audio Commentaries for 'lesser' movies like HOUSE OF USHER (1960), PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1963), X - THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (1963) and THE TRIP (1967) but not for his more 'respectable' films like MASQUE and THE INTRUDER (1961). Frankly I wasn't going to buy the disc because of this (since I owned both of them on VHS already); however, good sense has prevailed and there it is now in my collection. Comparing the DVD and VHS editions of MASQUE was an eye-opener: not only is the image (naturally) much sharper and with more vibrant colors, but I noticed that in several scenes Vincent himself was totally missing from the frame in the full-screen VHS version! However, I still won't be dumping my VHS since it is the original British release version of the film with slightly different credits (Anglo Amalgamated Productions instead of AIP; George Willoughby as producer instead of Corman) and three 'alternate' scenes (which were trimmed for the US) towards the beginning and end of the film. It's somewhat annoying to have to keep two distinct versions of one particular film in your collection (especially where the differences are as insignificant as they are here) but, I guess, it's a necessary evil sometimes!
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Pretty Good for the Genre
gbheron17 February 2002
A reviewer linked to this site described "The Masque of the Red Death" as Bergmanesque. A Roger Corman film Bergmanesque? Since I've only seen one Ingmar Bergman film, and it bored me silly, this was not much of an endorsement.

When I was a kid and Corman's Edgar Alan Poe adaptations were new, they scared the be-jeebers out of me. So would have "The Masque of the Red Death". After watching the movie recently, I didn't gain any insight into Mr. Bergman's film style, but I was entertained. And happily, the movie is free of the campy acting that seeps into so many of the Corman opus. Especially good is Vincent Price as the Satan-worshipping Prince Prospero, in whose castle his debauched guests wait out the plague that is ravishing the countryside. Dark and grotesque, this is an excellent example of Corman's work. Actually, one of the best I've seen.
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A Man of Constant Sorrow
Hitchcoc7 June 2015
So many of Vincent Price's movies involve the master in so much pain, hurt by the world in which he lived. This one is one of the better of the Poe pastiches. Here he plays the Prince Prospero, who has wild parties at his castle, while the riff raff live outside, dying from some bloody plague. What is great is the overconfidence of Price as he taunts and maligns and hurts people for pleasure. The Edgar Allen Poe story "Hop Frog" has been incorporated into this one. Since it was released in 1964, Roger Corman uses some rather surreal psychedelic stuff with fish eye lenses and red filters. We all know what is going to happen, but Price is a precious quantity to emotes all over the place. In his case he is forgiven.
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A classic
preppy-327 January 2003
Easily Roger Corman's best horror film. An absolutely beautiful, if dark, film.

In 12th century Italy, evil Count Prospero (Vincent Price) hides in his castle from the Red Death which is sweeping the countryside. He invites over many guests where they have nightly, cruel (but tame) orgies. Prospero, a devil worshipper, takes an innocent, religious girl (Jane Asher) from the nearby village and tries to convert her to his ways. Meanwhile his lady (Hazel Court) offers herself, body and soul, to the devil.

The costumes are colorful, the color is deep and rich, the set design is incredible and the script is, for a Corman film, very intelligent and thoughtful. The discussions between Asher and Price are very interesting and well-performed (especially by Price). All of this combines to help the film over its occasional lulls--there are at least two looonnnggg sequences in which Asher wanders around the castle for no reason and there's Courts' needless hallucination when she's repeatedly stabbed (not shown). I assume these are in the film to pad out the running time--still, they're not boring--the rich color and gorgeous sets command your attention.

The acting varies wildly. No one is really bad but, with the exception of Price, no one is really good. Court wanders around with a blank look on her face and Asher looks totally lost. It's not really their fault--they're given very little to work with. However Price's acting is just superb--he plays the role to perfection.

This isn't really scary or explicit (except for Court's bloody death), but it is beautiful and there's a very strong sense of doom and despair hanging over every frame. A true horror classic. Don't miss it.
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"The day of their deliverance is at hand."
Backlash00718 November 2003
Once again scripted by Charles Beaumont and produced/directed by Roger Corman, Masque of the Red Death is a much-beloved horror film from a lost era. Movies will never again be made quite like this. It's filled with the same mad characters, gorgeous sets, and colorful dream sequences we're used to seeing from Corman. Vincent Price, however hammy he may be, is perfect as the Satan-worshiping Prince Prospero. This very well could be the most evil I have ever seen Price. The cast is fine but Patrick Magee is definitely worth mentioning. He is delightfully wicked. And the character of the Red Death itself is cryptic and cool. This is one of the most colorful horror pictures ever made. The sets are grand, the story is marvelous, and the ending is brilliant. Masque of the Red Death is perhaps the most expensive Poe production, but it's still not Corman's best. I leave that honor to The Pit and the Pendulum.
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Pure Gothic Horror Brilliance
I am a huge fan of Roger Corman's entire Poe-cycle with Vincent Price, my all-time favorite actor, in the lead. "The Masque Of The Red Death" of 1964 is, alongside "The Pit And The Pendulum" of 1961 and "The Haunted Palace" of 1963 one of the absolute masterpieces of this great cycle, a truly brilliant and essential masterpiece of Gothic Horror that should not be missed by anyone who consider themselves a Horror fan or even a fan of cinema in general.

In medieval Italy, a region is terrorized by the evil Prince Prospero (Vincent Price), a sadistic tyrant who has committed his life to the worship of Satan. But not only do local people suffer under the prince's brutal reign, the country is also devastated by the 'Red Death', a mysterious, terrible plague that even Prince Prospero fears...

Vincent Price, as far as I am considered one of the greatest actors who ever lived, is brilliant in his role of Prince Prospero, one of his most evil and greatest roles. No one could have played the leading characters in Corman's Poe adaptations with the brilliance of Vincent Price, and "The Masque Of The Red Death" is the perfect example for that. Nothing compares to this great actor when he talks about the occult in an eerie voice and stresses the word 'Satan'. The devil-worshiping Prince and his wife, played by Hazel Court, who is equally dedicated to the worship of Satan, as well as their many followers of lower nobility residing at the castle are all wonderfully decadent and cruel people, the Prince himself, of course, is the epitome of decadence and cruelty. Hazel Court is also terrific in her role as Prospero's wife Juliana, and Jane Asher delivers an excellent performance in the female lead, as Francesca, a young woman forced to stay at Prospero's castle.

After the success of his previous Poe films Roger Corman had a higher budget for "The Masque Of The Red Death", and, as a true master of atmosphere, he certainly knew how to use it. Brilliantly photographed in intense colors, "The Masque Of The Red Death" builds up a unique, horrifying atmosphere from the first minute, and the tension lasts throughout the whole movie, making this film one of the most atmospheric Horror films ever brought to screen. Roger Corman had originally planned to make "The Masque Of The Red Death" instantly after his first Poe Film, "House Of Usher" (1960), had become a success. Because he felt the story was too similar to that of Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" of 1957, however, Corman decided to make "The Pit And The Pendulum" first, and directed "The Masque of The Red Death" three years later, in 1964. And I'm very grateful for his decision, since both "Pit And The Pendulum" and "Masque Of The Red Death" are absolutely brilliant and essential masterpieces of incredibly atmospheric Gothic Horror, and both films rank very high in my personal all-time favorite list.

All said, I can't find enough words to praise "The Masque Of The Red Death" the way it deserves to. An utterly brilliant Gothic Horror film, "The Masque Of The Red Death" is a masterpiece that no lover of film can afford to miss. 10/10
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Delightfully over the top
malmros-26 March 2006
Was there ever a role that was more made for Vincent Price? Doubtful. As Prince Prospero, he's got plenty of medieval scenery to chew on. Poe's short story serves as an excellent inspiration, being long on atmosphere and short on plot details, so that the screenwriter is free to reinvent Prospero as a sadistic overlord and a satanist to boot. And, of course, to stretch this baby out to movie length, they had to invent the Other Side: Poe's story only had the bad guys, but here we have the forces of good represented by the virginal peasant girl, her father and her betrothed. The added costumes, choreography, and scenes of debauched nobles barking like dogs on the banquet table don't do a thing to make this an authentically frightening movie, so don't watch it for that. Just sit back, enjoy the sight of Vincent Price merrily proclaiming, "Burn the village to the ground!" and try not to hate yourself in the morning.
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dark, weird classic
r-c-s8 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A mysterious, fatal, contagious illness strikes from a remote village in middle ages' Italy. It is a coincidence a mysterious, lone tarot reader in a red robe (=can the enigma of human destiny be foretold ) had appeared short before that...or is it? A free thinking, bragging and frivulous prince enters the scene and we understand he loves to poke one-liners at faith in general & Christianity in particular, and given the dark, oppressive middle ages made of starving peasants, pillages, war and demanding tyrants, he has ammunition against the optimist vision of a "god of love" being the supreme arbiter. He lures the belle of the village to his castle upon threat of garroting her lover & father. There a bunch of dissolute noblemen kill time dancing, eating & coming up with new ways to entertain themselves. The mysterious illness is merciless; however the prince ( a spoof between the poor man's versions of both Voltaire & de Sade ) is sure his "master" will shelter them all & grant safety in exchange for's soul. It turns out the villain is a satanist, and there he goes with one liners about the power of darkness, this & that, trying to corrupt the Christian belle. In the end the beau of the belle is released from the castle to die among the plagued, but he meets the figure in red again, who promises him a way out & guides him back to the castle. The figure meets the prince in the end, who is so aroused & excited he can finally meet his "master". He "assumed too much" reveals the red one... All his guests die when the red death spreads his wings upon them, the prince included...only the belle can finally go. It turns out he had harshly critized religion for its face saving stereotypes, inner weakness & double morals...yet (as the red one lectures ) he just created a new heaven, and thus a new hell for replacing a fad with another fad. In the end many men in colored robe meet, thus forewarning about the many ways to meet one's death. Acting is OK, although not 10-10. The atmosphere is very good, although some low budget items appear (like the fog ) overused. This movie is about the relative value of beliefs and the idea men are in charge of their own destiny, until death steps into the picture. The mysterious, the unthinkable are present all through this movie, including odd characters like a dwarf & a female dwarf (rather a miniature woman than a midget ). The prince represents the cogitating nature of dissolution, while a friend of his the lustful & sexual side. Rather than acting or costumes, this movie is about its message. Price is good, albeit not five stars.

For its rather slow pace & heavy philosophy, not an easy movie.
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Death has no Master
Scarecrow-8816 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Death himself, cloaked in red, delivers a plague to a village under the rule of the cruel, corrupt Prince Prospero(Vincent Price, in one of his finest roles). Prospero is offended by two villagers who ridicule the way he treats their people and decides to imprison them keeping them in a dungeon alive temporarily thanks to the pleading of the father's red-headed daughter, Francesca(Jane Asher). Prospero fancies Francesca, who is quite homely at first, and wishes to corrupt her innocence and purity. Gino(David Weston)is Francesca's beloved and Ludovico(Nigel Green)is her father and both are to partake in a devious game plotted by Prospero where one will die among the two in a "poisoned dagger" deal where each will choose from a group of blades cutting themselves until one receives that bad one that will end their life within five seconds.

Ultimately, the film is about Prospero's devilish reign over everyone as he seems to hold the power over who lives and dies. Or, does he? What Prospero doesn't know is that Red Death has his own plans and everything that has occurred from the plague that kills almost all the villagers to the capture of's a plan devised by Death to show Prospero his fate.

A universal theme of "good versus evil" is employed skillfully by director Roger Corman in arguably his finest film using Satanism as the source of the evil and love as the source of good. Prospero and the woman of his castle, Juliana(Hazel Court), are "duelling" for Satan's affections and Corman often uses dream-like surrealism to show their desire for the vile one's favor. Juliana even takes the mark of the upside-down cross, burnt to her chest, to hopefully become Beelzebub's bride.

We watch as Prospero shows no pity on villagers who wish to lodge in his castle and even certain aristocrats who just wish to barrier themselves from the red plague ravaging the countryside. We also see the wealthy denizens as they scrap for their host's truffles and humiliate themselves often for Prospero's sheer amusement(one sequence shows them mimicking animals at Prospero's command). Prospero relishes misery, specifically from God-fearing Christians, and he often uses people he deems of lower value as entertainment for his visitors. An excellent example is two miniature people, Hop Toad(Skip Martin)and Esmeralda(Verina Breenlaw whose voice is dubbed by an older woman)who perform recitals for them. When Esmeralda accidentally tips over a glass of wine on slimy aristocrat, Alfredo(Patrick Magee who portrays him as a devious toad), she is slapped by him rashly.

In a moment of pure vengeful delight, Corman shows good triumph over evil when midget Hop Toad gets the better of Alfredo tricking him into a gorilla suit during a masquerade ball Prospero was putting together.

But, the film is about fate and death. We all shall meet that point and time and Prospero's about to meet Death face-to-face. The ending where Prospero can not control the horror that will come to him is quite satisfying.

Corman used sets from the film "Becket" while making this film in England and provides us with a lavish look, magnificent color, really wonderful surreal nightmarish sequences..that's just inside the castle. Death is photographed inside an eerie fog and the film's final sequence where we hear a collection of "deliverers" talk in jest and sadness of their unfortunate duties of taking souls as they wander is a fine artist rendering of a great story adapted from Poe's magnificent macabre tale. Price as the evil prince and the way Corman films the depravity really provides a template for that finale where everyone who inflicts their cruelty must meet their own cruel fate.
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Beware The Sins
AaronCapenBanner5 October 2013
Roger Corman directed this adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story, as Vincent Price plays the evil Prince Prospero, who brutally rules over the local peasantry, and abducts a beautiful girl who catches his eye, Francesca(Jane Asher). He promises not to hurt her, but instead seeks to corrupt her innocence by inviting her over to his castle, where many guests have gathered both for their debauchery, as well as an escape from the plague, a red death that ravages the countryside. Prospero's wife Juliana(Hazel Court) is also evil, and promised to Satan. Francesca's village will attempt a rescue, leading to an apocalyptic climax, as sins will be punished...

Superbly written, directed, and acted film is quite literate and atmospheric, with richly saturated colors, striking religious symbolism and a chilling end make this a winner.
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And darkness and decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all
JamesHitchcock13 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"The Masque of the Red Death" is the penultimate entry in a series of film adaptations of the works of Edgar Allan Poe directed by Roger Corman between 1960 and 1964. Although it was based on a story by an American author and made by an American director with an American actor (Vincent Price) in the leading role, it was shot in Britain and is regarded as a British film. Corman possibly felt that Poe's story was too short to serve as the basis of a feature film by itself, because he expands upon the original, introducing a sub-plot based on another Poe tale, "Hop-Frog", and incorporating original material such as the love story of Francesca and Gino. The final film in the series, "The Tomb of Ligeia", similarly expands upon the story upon which it is based and incorporates elements taken from another story, "The Black Cat".

The story is set in medieval Italy, in the territory ruled by the cruel and tyrannical Prince Prospero. Prospero has invited his friends and members the local nobility to his castle for protection against the Red Death, a plague which is ravaging the countryside, and orders his guests to attend a masked ball. Prospero has also abducted the beautiful peasant girl Francesca, whom he hopes to persuade to become his mistress. The subplot involves Prospero's dwarf jester Hop-Toad and the terrible revenge he takes upon an arrogant courtier who has insulted the woman he loves. The character of the Prince may also owe something to that of the King in "Hop-Frog"; like that monarch he is a sadistic practical joker who delights in humiliating his guests.

The film, like Corman's other Poe adaptations, is often described as a "horror film", although it is very different in style from either the Hammer productions which were becoming popular in Britain at around the same time or the traditional Hollywood horror movie. Whereas horror films had traditionally relied upon an atmosphere of dark and gloom, "The Masque of the Red Death" is shot in vivid colour. Prospero has decorated every room of the castle in a different colour, and it is against this background that he and his courtiers act out their revelry while dressed in brilliant, glittering costumes.

Horror films generally rely upon the supernatural, but here the only element which cannot be explained rationally is the mysterious hooded figure of Death, a figure which is clearly intended to have a symbolic rather than a literal meaning in the context of the film. Like Poe's story, the film as a whole can be interpreted as a morality tale on the theme of "Sic transit gloria mundi" ("Thus passes the glory of the world"). Worldly power and magnificence can do nothing to halt the passage of time or to fend off the inevitability of death. The final words of the film are also those of the story:- "And darkness and decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all".

An element not found in Poe's story is the contrast between the evil and debauchery of Prospero and the innocence and goodness of Francesca. The two characters are brilliantly realised by Price as the smooth and urbane, yet utterly corrupt and ruthless, Prince, and the teenaged Jane Asher as the innocent maiden. Yet, although Francesca's fervent Christian faith is used as a contrast to the Prince's cruel and licentious Satanism, the film is in some ways ambivalent about religion. The figure of Death announces to Prospero that "There is no face of Death until the moment of your own death ... Each man creates his own God for himself — his own heaven, his own hell," thus implying that even in religion there are no absolute truths.

Like many of Corman's films, this one was made on a very low budget, but it has a greater sophistication than many movies which cost far more to make. It works on two levels. On the visual level it has the effect, particularly during the ball scenes of a strange, psychedelic nightmare. On a more intellectual level it works as an imaginative philosophical exploration of the themes of death, fate and good and evil. One of the best horror films of the sixties. 8/10
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"Why are you afraid to die, Prospero? Your soul died a long time ago"
ackstasis2 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
For Roger Corman – the King of B-movies – Poe adaptations were an opportunity to use Vincent Price at his sinister best, and also to be a little "arty." No doubt he took some inspiration from the European cinema of the era. For example, 'The Masque of the Red Death (1964)' depicts a cloaked representation of Death playing cards with a little girl, a striking reference to Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal (1957).' It also features a grotesque masquerade ball that calls to mind a scene in Welles' 'Mr. Arkadin (1955).' Corman's artistry, even working on a low budget, is frequently impressive, the director abusing his colour film stock with a flurry of vibrant costumes that seem to bleed with the decadence of their wearers. The film is set in medieval times, as a plague of Red Death is sweeping the lands. Amid the mighty scourge, a Satanist named Prospero (Vincent Price) arranges a masquerade ball, at which he spies an ominous figure cloaked in red, whom he believes to be the Devil himself.

'The Masque of the Red Death' is steeped in decadence. Particularly disturbing (and I'm not even sure why) is a scene in which Prince Prospero orders his guests to behave like animals, and they obediently do so, shamelessly cackling like hyenas as they squirm along the floor in depraved imitations of various wild beasts. Stripped of their modesty and dignity – a crowd of gruesome sycophant – these men and woman become pitiful and contemptible, and the viewer is glad to witness their demise. Indeed, as the masked figure submits to Prospero, their souls were surrendered long before Red Death stole their lives. Hazel Court, as a Satan-worshipping wife, and Patrick McGee (best known for 'A Clockwork Orange (1971)'), as a sleazy guest, are particularly detestable. As in Michael Reeves' Cormanesque 'Witchfinder General (1968),' the depravity of medieval society is offset by a love story between a young couple, in this case Jane Asher and David Weston, whose love represents one of the few lingering vestiges of humanity across the plague-swept lands.
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about as close to Roger Corman's The Seventh Seal as you're likely to see
Quinoa19848 January 2009
Vincent Price was probably a typical choice for Roger Corman to play the super-villainous Prince Prospero, but it was the right choice. It's one of those rare performances from him where you can't peg if he's being totally hammy or if it's sincerely evil and self-righteous Satanic orders that he's acting out. It's hard to ever take eyes of Price anyway, but here he's especially magnetic in that twisted way he has as a presence on screen. He's charming, so much so we know what's up about five minutes after we see him. And everyone around Prospero, from his minions and other castle hierarchy to the peasants who are dying left and right in the village of Catania, knows that he is too much of himself to be completely at ease around, for lesser or more extreme reasons. But what makes his character, and how Price plays it, so compelling is how he tries to align himself with Satan himself without fulling reckoning whatever power there might be with the "other-side", of a God or the Devil or just Death itself.

This might be making it sound like Roger Corman is getting deep on us, for a one-time-only concert kind of deal. It's not entirely that, but there re one or two moments in The Masque of the Red Death where Poe's darkest intonations on the possibilities of man are realized or questioned. Indeed this is one of the only times Corman was able to conjure up some real scares, sometimes out of things that should be very typical of a B-horror movie, of a "jump" in the surprise of something revealed; the first time someone uncovers someone who has been killed by the Red Death, a face covered in red markings and blood, it is terrifying, and it is what Corman would've usually fallen flat on his face about.

I have to think that it had to do with taking just a little more time and care on the production (five weeks instead of the usual three on Poe adaptations), and having a crucial asset of Nicholas Roeg as a DP. Anyone wondering if the director of films like Performance and Bad Timing and Man Who Fell to Earth could do the same kind of wonders with lighting need look further than here, especially when Francesca is surrounded by green sights in the midst of a kind of half-dream half-Satanic hallucination. If it feels "arty" at all I would put the credit (or blame) on Roeg, not on Corman, who at best gets some very good use out of Beckett sets and leftover costumes. Plus, of course, casting Price.

It is, indeed, something of a visual marvel, almost to the point of intentionally masking, no pun intended, the flaws in the film. It is, like pretty close to all of Corman's other work, spotty and with a few performances that stick out like plague-sore thumbs (the girl playing Julia is at best OK, nowhere near the caliber of the actress playing Francesca), and sometimes there is overkill with a couple of action bits (i.e. the climax with Price being attacked by all of the guests' hands). But there is superior craftsmanship throughout, and a care to try and give some life and purpose to a story by Poe that was, admittedly, so short that I only vaguely remembered the details of the party from reading it in school. It's not entirely great, but it's certainly far better than I could have expected, and it's even got some psychological points of merit within its pseudo-religious realm of thought: how far does one go in imagining oneself cheating death, to the point a soul is lost?
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