The Masque of the Red Death

Watch The Masque of the Red Death

"Horror has a face."
  • NR
  • 1989
  • 1 hr 30 min
  • 6.9  (16,037)
  • 77

In the 1964 horror film The Masque of the Red Death, Vincent Price plays the narcissistic and sadistic Prince Prospero, who lives in a castle amidst a plague-ridden land known as the Red Death. The prince believes that his wealth and aristocratic status protects him and his nobles from the disease, and he amuses himself by throwing lavish parties that are decadent and perverse.

Prospero’s moral corruption is evident from the start of the film, as he orders his guards to kill innocent peasants who dare to enter his castle gates in search of food and shelter. He also keeps a dwarf as a jester who he abuses in a disturbing scene, revealing the prince’s cruel nature.

One of Prospero’s guests is the virtuous and innocent Francesca (Jane Asher), who has come to visit her father, a scientist who is researching a cure for the Red Death. Francesca is repulsed by the debauchery and depravity of the prince’s court, and her compassion for the suffering of the masses puts her at odds with Prospero’s worldview.

Francesca meets and falls in love with Gino (David Weston), one of Prospero’s rebellious young nobles who expresses sympathy for the plight of the common people. The two of them bond over their shared concern for humanity, while Prospero becomes increasingly drawn to the idea of death as a release from the emptiness of his own life.

The film culminates in one of Prospero’s infamous masquerade balls, where he and his guests wear elaborate costumes and masks as they indulge in hedonistic pleasures. As the partygoers revel in their own debauchery, a mysterious figure dressed in red (the embodiment of the Red Death) appears and stalks the castle, killing one guest after another.

Prospero arrogantly assumes that he can outsmart the Red Death, and he invites the figure to unmask himself. The reveal of what lies beneath the mask is chilling, and prompts Prospero to realize the error of his ways.

Director Roger Corman, who also adapted the screenplay from Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name, creates a visual feast with his trademark low-budget ingenuity. The sets and costumes are lavish, and the use of colored filters and unusual camera angles gives the film an otherworldly, dreamlike quality. The musical score by David Lee follows suit, with eerie and atmospheric pieces that add to the sense of foreboding.

The film’s themes of decadence, depravity, and mortality are timeless, and the performances of the cast add depth and nuance to the story. Vincent Price is excellent as the villainous Prince Prospero, reveling in the role of the cruel and selfish aristocrat. Jane Asher brings a humanity and warmth to the role of Francesca, who serves as the moral center of the film. David Weston is sympathetic and likeable as Gino, and Hazel Court, who plays Juliana, Prospero’s mistress, adds a touch of camp to the proceedings.

Overall, The Masque of the Red Death is a classic horror film that showcases the talents of its cast and crew. The film is both chilling and thought-provoking, and its exploration of the dark side of human nature remains relevant today.

The Masque of the Red Death is a 1989 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.9 and a MetaScore of 77.

The Masque of the Red Death
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 30 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.9  (16,037)
  • Metascore