“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” Edgar Allan Poe
An old woman is gathering kindling. A Man in Red is sitting under a tree. He calls to her. In his hand he has a white rose. He turns the rose to red and hands it to her. He tells her to take it to her village with the message that the day of their deliverance is at hand. The man in red is death. The rose is the plague.
The vile Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) is riding through the village of Catania. He is there to invite the villagers to a feast. While there he is insulted by two villagers, Gino (David Weston) and Ludovico (Nigel Green). Prospero orders them to be garroted. Francesca (Jane Asher) is Ludovico’s daughter and Gino’s wife. She tries to intervene on their behalf. She pleads for mercy for their lives. Before Prospero can decide the fate of the two villagers he discovers that there is plague in the village. The Red Death. He orders Gino, Ludovico and Francesca to be taken to the castle. He then orders that the village be burned to the ground.
Prospero intends to corrupt the young Francesca. Part of his plan is to use the two men against each other. Prospero is a Satan worshiper. He plans on hiding in his castle until the plague passes. He and other nobility party while the plague ravages the area. As entertainment Prospero holds a masked ball. When he sees a red hooded stranger he believes that Satan himself has attended his party. But soon he learns who his mysterious guest really is.
“The Masque of the Red Death” is considered the seventh of the Corman-Poe-AIP films and was released in 1964. The film was produced and directed by Roger Corman and written by Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell. Lavish sets and much symbolism permeate the film. There is something about it that captures your attention. The surreal dreamlike quality makes the movie quite haunting. Death personified is creepy.
Jane Asher (Francesca) was Paul McCartney’s girlfriend at the time the movie was being made.
British censors removed a scene where Hazel Court's character Juliana imagines a series of demonic figures attacking her while she lies on a slab. According to Roger “From the standpoint of nudity, there was nothing. I think she (Court) was nude under a diaphanous gown. She played the consummation with the Devil, but it was essentially on her face; it was a pure acting exercise. Hazel fully clothed, all by herself, purely by acting, incurred the wrath of the censor. It was a different age; they probably felt that was showing too much. Today, you could show that on six o’clock television and nobody would worry.”