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The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Horror has a face.

A European prince terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the "Red Death" plague that stalks the land.

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Reds, Tarot

To Roger Corman, this was simply another garish, cheaply made horror film, after the model of his previous Vincent Price successes. But for the rest of us, it tipped the world into a strange world of mystical influence.

The script is simple enough, merging ‘Alice in Wonderland,‘ tarot influence, and ‘The Tempest.’; Prospero has a magical castle, where he works spells. Outside, a greater magician cloaked in red works the magic of the tarot bringing balance to a struggle between God and Satan. This is accomplished by turning all the privileged guests in the castle red, with a magical plague as they dance.

This is witnessed by a captive young woman, our surrogate viewer. She is a bright, virginal redhead who incidentally competes with a dark redhead who has become the devil‘s mistress. The dedication of her soul to the dark side is drawn from ‘The Red Shoes,‘ a ballet of evil featuring magicians from history.

Our innocent redhead is played by Jane Asher, chosen because she was known for her stage Alice. She herself has a miniature version, a tiny redheaded ballet dancer (played by a child) who seems the only other sane person. All of this is rather silly unless you were about ten when you saw this new.

What makes it interesting is some incidental history. Jane Asher was in a new, deep romance with a uneducated but curious musician from Northern England. He hung around the set, and was introduced to the notion of Tarot for the first time. The idea caught fire with him, and later his writing partner, John Lennon. Together they entered several worlds of magic that through their art changed the world.

The cinematographer, Nicholas Roeg, would go on to be important.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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