Cult Movie Essentials

Cult Movie Essentials: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Directed by Roger Corman, The Masque of the Red Death is based upon the 1842 short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe it also entwines Poe’s “Hop Frog and Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s “Torture By Hope” into its subplots.

The film opens in medieval Italy on a mountain where we meet an ominous red cloaked figure shuffling tarot cards. The red-cloaked figure gives the woman a white rose, which then turns red and dappled with blood.

We are then introduced to a Satanist named Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) who is in a village that he clearly holds some power over. Prospero is angrily confronted by two poor and starving villagers who we learn are Gino (David Weston) and Lodovico (Nigel Green). Not having any of it, Prospero sentences them to death resulting in Lodovico’s daughter Francesca (Jane Asher) begging for their lives. Prospero decides to take Francesca back to his castle with him. If that wasn’t enough Prospero then discovers that the old woman who encountered the red cloaked figure is infected with a deadly plague, the Red Death. In order to stop the plague spreading Prospero orders the village burned down.

Once back at the castle, Francesca is finely dressed and tutored in etiquette by Prospero’s consort, Juliana (Hazel Court) who is clearly jealous of Francesca. Prospero entertains some noble folks at the castle with dwarf dancers, Esmeralda (Verina Greenlaw) and Hop-Toad (Skip Martin). During a dance Esmeralda accidentally knocks over a goblet of wine, one of the guests, Alfredo (Patrick Magee), hits her for this mistake. Later that night Juliana tells Prospero that she wants to be initiated into his Satanic cult. Francesca later discovers them in a strange, hypnotic state in Prospero’s Black Room. With Satanists and the Red Death plague all around the castle a whole host of events still await to unfold!

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