After filming six Poe adaptations in Hollywood, US director Roger Corman headed to the UK in late 1963 to make his penultimate picture in the cycle, The Masque of the Red Death, which was released into cinemas on 24 June 1964.

‘Can you look around this world and believe in the goodness of a god who rules it? Famine, Pestilence, War, Disease and Death! They rule this world’

In 12th-century Italy, the devil-worshipping Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) dedicates himself to cruel pleasures while a deadly plague rages through the land. Burning down a village where a woman has contracted the dreaded Red Death, he kidnaps a Christian girl, Francesca (Jane Asher) intending to corrupt her, and imprisons her father (Nigel Green) and lover (David Weston). To his castle he invites his dissolute court for a masked ball, promising them Satan’s protection from the Red Death. But there’s an uninvited guest dressed in a hooded scarlet robe who reveals himself as one of Death’s messengers…

‘If a god of love and life ever did exist… he is long since dead. Someone… something, rules in his place’

This deep dive into the velvet darkness of the occult is a poetic meditation on physical and moral corruption. The script (by R Wright Campbell, Charles Beaumont and Roger Corman) shows off rare intelligence while also faithfully adapting both Poe’s title story and his cruel comic anecdote Hop-Frog. Corman directs with economic elegance, the camerawork from future auteur Nicolas Roeg drips with colour and imagination, and the production design, sets and costumes have a lavish air. And it’s all capped off with a rousing score from English jazz musician David Lee (who wrote the Peter Sellers/Sophia Loren song Goodness Gracious Me).

Giving a nuanced performance, Price plays Prospero as a sincere philosopher whose motivation is more piety than evil intent. And he gets excellent support from Asher as the young innocent who moves his cold heart. There are also winning turns from Hazel Court, as his devilish mistress, Patrick Magee as a lecherous nobleman, and Skip Martin as the vengeful Hop-Toad.

Read more about David Lee’s soundtrack HERE

COMING SOON! The Blu-ray from StudioCanal UK


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