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The Masque of the Red Death in popular culture

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The Masque of the Red Death in popular culture

Edgar Allan Poe's 1842 short story "The Masque of the Red Death" has appeared many times in popular culture.



  • In The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, Erik appears at the masquerade dressed as the red death.
  • Jack London's novella The Scarlet Plague (1912) was inspired in part by Poe's story. In the book, much of humanity has been wiped out by a disease sometimes referred to as "Red Death".
  • Stephen King's novel The Shining contains several allusions to the story. For example, the line "and the red death held sway over all" seems to reference the final line of Poe's story. It is alluded to more directly in volume six of his "Dark Tower" series.
  • In Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, this story is referenced by an elderly British author in a speech given at a socialite's party.
  • In Neil Gaiman's 1996 novel Neverwhere, a minor character briefly mentions the story "The Masque of the Red Death" when describing a fancy event at a museum. Also, in "The Sandman : Endless Nights", the story "Death and Venice" seems to be heavily influenced by "The Masque of the Red Death", as Death of the Endless waits for the perfect time to "visit" Italian aristocrats during a Carnivalesque ball.
  • Death in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels references the story a couple of times; in Maskerade (which pastiches Phantom of the Opera, see below), he wears a Red Death costume at the book's climax. In The Light Fantastic, Death consoles himself after being summoned from an enjoyable party, noting that it was going to go downhill at midnight – as that's when everyone would have expected him to take his mask off.
  • The Chuck Palahniuk novel Haunted begins with a quote from "The Masque of the Red Death". Also, several of the rooms are colored with themes that reflect the story.
  • In the Dan Simmons novel The Terror, an elaborate Carnivale and masque is staged outdoors by the crew of two ice-locked ships. The crew builds a series of multi-colored compartments for the event out on the ice using the ships' rigging and different colored paints. A crew member thinks of this idea from incompletely remembering a story by Poe he read in a magazine.
  • The last chapter of Valerio Evangelisti's novel Il corpo e il sangue di Eymerich (The Body and the Blood of Eymerich) shares the story's title and retells its plot almost literally in the context of the book.
  • The second installment of the limited comic series Rocket Raccoon, "The Masque of the Red Breath", featured an insidious red cloud, the Red Breath, which attacked a masquerade and "erased" its victims from existence.
  • White Wolf's trilogy Masquerade of the Red Death is named and has some elements based on this story.
  • Masque of the Red Death — an erotic, "decadent" re-telling of the original Poe story in webcomic format by Wendy Pini
  • Bethany Griffin has written a two-volume re-imagining of Poe's story: Masque of the Red Death (2012, Greenwillow Books, ISBN 0062107798) and Dance of the Red Death (2013, Greenwillow Books, ISBN 0062107828) featuring a heroine named Araby Worth who also acts as narrator.
  • The fictional drama in the horror story collection The King in Yellow bears a similar plot.
  • Stage and screen

  • A horror film called The Masque of the Red Death was shot in 1964 by Roger Corman. It incorporates a sub-plot based on another Poe tale, "Hop-Frog." The film stars Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher and Patrick Magee. The film had a 1989 remake starring Adrian Paul.
  • In Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera, Erik, the Phantom, attends a ball dressed as the Red Death with the inscription "Je suis la Mort Rouge qui passe!" ("I am the Red Death that passes") embroidered on his cloak in gold. The Red Death costume shows up in both the 1925 version, 1986 musical and 2004 film of the same name, though the 1925 movie and stage production are somewhat more accurate regarding his appearance, as he bears a large feathered hat and lengthy cloak as described in the novel (although both stage and screen costume bear skull masks). Neither appearance, however, shows the inscription. The 1987 animated film also shows the Red Death scene. In the 1989 film, starring Robert Englund, Erik is also dressed as Red Death. On the cover of Sam Siciliano's The Angel of the Opera, Erik is dressed as the Red Death.
  • The 1992 film Batman Returns directed by Tim Burton features a character dressed as the Red Death in the same fashion as the 1925 Phantom of the Opera at a masquerade ball.
  • The 2001 animated/live-action comedy Osmosis Jones features a scarlet fever virus called Thrax, who claims to be the Red Death, as the main villain. He was voiced by Laurence Fishburne. As in Poe's story, Thrax is a dangerous and fatal disease, but did not cause the same symptoms as The Red Death.
  • In London, a production of The Red Death created by Punchdrunk productions and Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) ran from October 2007 to April 2008. The follow-up to the hugely popular Faust production, this interpretation has the audience walking through a mock up of the castle in the Arts Centre. The company converted the building into a castle and staged various scenes from the book, alongside adaptations of several other short stories by Poe.
  • An anime film adaptation of the story scripted by Akira Kurosawa as The Masque of Black Death was planned.[1]
  • Music

  • The music video for Fishbone's "Party at Ground Zero" was directed by Henry Selick, future director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The video is a homage of "The Masque of the Red Death", with "Death" bringing about a nuclear explosion when he removes his mask.
  • Avant-Garde musical artist Diamanda Galás adopted "Masque of the Red Death" as the collective name for a trilogy of work consisting of the albums Saint of the Pit, The Divine Punishment and You Must Be Certain of the Devil. The trilogy was a tribute to the sufferers of AIDS and a protest against the ignorance towards the epidemic from religious and political groups. Galás often used biblical texts and excerpts from classic literature in her work, reinterpreting them as her message of protest. She used "Masque of the Red Death" as the trilogy's name, relating the plague in the story to the AIDS epidemic to highlight her opinion that AIDS affects everyone, whether you are a sufferer or not.
  • The German metal band Stormwitch has a song called "Masque of the Red Death" on their 1985 album "Tales Of Terror".
  • The American metal band Throne of Malediction Ziekte Records has a song called "Red Death" on their 2011 album "Ceremonial Blood".
  • The American metal band Manilla Road made a song called "Masque of the Red Death" on their 1987 album Mystification.
  • The American metal band Crimson Glory made a song called "Masque of the Red Death" on their 1988 album Transcendence.
  • On the Norwegian gothic metal group Theatre of Tragedy's 1996 album Velvet Darkness They Fear, the fifth track, "And When He Falleth" includes several sections of Jane Asher and Vincent Price's dialogues from the 1964 film of The Masque of the Red Death.
  • The lyrics in Eros Ramazzotti's song "Lettera al futuro" (= Letter to the future), included on his 1996 album Dove c'è musica, tell the story's plot in a simplified form and compare Poe's plague to AIDS and various 'plagues' affecting today's world (war, pollution, poverty, etc.), finally expressing hope that all of them will not exist anymore in a future world. The first two lines in the lyrics state that "This is an old story / already told many years ago"; however, Ramazzotti manages to reverse Poe's harsh finale into a more optimistic ending.
  • The 2002 Thrice album The Illusion of Safety features a song titled "The Red Death", an interpretation of the story.
  • Musician Ann Danielewski received her nickname, and later stage name, "Poe" after wearing a Red Death costume to a childhood Halloween party.
  • The Swiss black metal band Samael made a song called "Mask of the Red Death" on their album Ceremony of Opposites.
  • On Michael Romeo's solo album has a song named "Masque Of The Red Death".
  • On the American band Tourniquet's album Vanishing Lessons, the equally named track quotes a passage from this story.
  • Producer Winnie Waldron produced a version of Masque of the Red Death for the American radio drama series Radio Tales on National Public Radio; the program featured a full-length musical score by Winifred Phillips, who also narrated the story. In their Fall 1997 Quarterly Edition publication, NPR wrote, "Things get underway on an elegantly macabre note as Winifred Phillips performs Edgar Allan Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" to her original music score." In describing the program Benjamin H. Cheever of AudioFile Magazine wrote, "The music of Poe's text is amplified and clarified with sound effects and an original score."
  • American singer Hana Pestle has a song entitled "The Red Death Ball" which contains a lyrical story that was inspired by the events that occur within The Masque of the Red Death.
  • Los Angeles based band Creature Feature has a song entitled "Buried Alive" based on many Edgar Allan Poe stories and containing many quotes. One line of the song is "As I Walk The Valley Of Unrest, Behind This Mask of Crimson Death."
  • Dark Ambient group Nox Arcana has a song on their 2007 album Shadow of the Raven entitled "Masque of the Red Death", which is an organ and chorus themed musical interpretation of the Edgar Allan Poe story.
  • New York shoegaze band Highspire references The Red Death in their song "Joke's On You" on their 2010 album "Aquatic."
  • The song Deadly Masquerade by the Japanese visual kei band Sadie tells the story from the perspective of the guests at the ball. The song focuses on the shameless fun and near insanity the guests felt until the third verse, where the song's mood changes to one of fear and panic.
  • The French impressionist composer André Caplet composed Etude symphonique pour harpe chromatique principale and orchestra (1908) based upon Masque of the Red Death and revised it in 1923 to Conte fantastique d'après "Le Masque de la Mort Rouge" d'Edgar Allan Poe pour Harpe and string quartet.
  • The 2011 orchestral composition Prospero's Rooms by the American composer Christopher Rouse depicts the narrative of the story musically.
  • Other media

  • The 1994 computer game Under a Killing Moon featured interludes in which text slides containing lines of The Masque of the Red Death were narrated by James Earl Jones.
  • In 1994 a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game campaign setting was published under the name Masque of the Red Death as an offshoot of Ravenloft taking place on a version of earth in the year 1890 with many elements from gothic fiction.
  • The 1995 computer game The Dark Eye featured an abstract slide-show segment accompanying a reading of "The Masque of the Red Death" performed by William S. Burroughs.
  • Launched in June 2007 the website Go! Comi launched a weekly webcomic written and illustrated by Wendy Pini of Elfquest fame, entitled Masque of the Red Death. It is a futuristic adaptation of the Poe tale.
  • The October 20, 2008 issue of The New Yorker featured a Red Death character looming over stock traders in the New York Stock Exchange.
  • The Warhammer Fantasy Battle setting has the story of the Masque of the Red Death occurring in the city of Mousillon in Bretonnia.
  • The Ninja ( tells a Christmas story, wherein Santa is a ninja, and Rudolph is portrayed as "Red Death, the On-Fire Paindeer", rejected by the other "paindeer" because he is always on fire.
  • The webcomic Parallel Dementia contains a short story based on the Masque of the Red Death. The disease is not the red death but rather the grinning death, which is characterized by the victims' maniacal grin.
  • In the series Beetlejuice, the fourth-season episode "Poe Pourri" has Beetlejuice encountering "The Mask of Dead Breath" a giant floating face mask who coughs upon Beetlejuice, but instead of red death he just suffers a terrible cold.
  • The mission Lady Boyle's Last Party in the 2012 video game Dishonored is loosely based on The Masque of the Red Death.
  • A series of video games titled Phantom Mansion are about a guy named Hector returning to the castle and entering a different maze-like room with the goal of reaching the final room to break the curse of the Red Death.
  • The game The Rudest Party Guest, an Experimental Gameplay Project entry, is a loose adaptation of The Masque of the Red Death.
  • The 2013 Doctor Who episode The Crimson Horror features a chemical substance which seems to produce the same effects within humans as that of the actual disease, while it was in fact produced by an alien parasite within the episode.
  • References

    The Masque of the Red Death in popular culture Wikipedia

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