This film is one of the 8 different movies produced by Roger Corman that are loosely based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. “The Raven” has always been held up as one of the greatest poems from Poe and with good reason, it is dark, deeply emotional and filled with a deep sense of sadness. This movie answers the question “why is the raven in the poem able to speak?” In other words the poem is treated more as a springboard for an entirely new story of fantasy and dueling wizards.
“The Raven” takes place during the medieval era. The main character Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) is still heartbroken over the untimely death of his wife Lenore 2 years ago. One night he receives a visit by a wizard named Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre). Bedlow has been transformed into a talking raven. Craven manages to change him back to his human form with a potion. It turns out Bedlo was transformed by a rival named Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff) in a wizard duel. Bedlo saw Cravens wife at the castle during the duel and both men decide to confront Scarabus. Unfortunetly the men are then attacked by Cravens coach man (who has been enchanted by Scarabus). Fortunately they manage to bring the man back to his senses and they are joined by Cravens daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess) and Bedlos son Rexford (Jack Nicholson) on their journey.
Once they arrive at the castle Scarabus greets them, at first he acts friendly but it’s just an act. Conflict arises between the men and Bedlo is seemingly killed, However that night Rexford finds his father hiding in the castle. Craven is visited by Lenore and finds out his wife faked her own death 2 years ago so she could be the mistress of Scarabus. Craven, Estelle, Bedlo and Rexford try to escape but Scarabus captures them. Under threat of torture Bedlo begs Scarabus to turn him back into a raven. Scarabus complies and upon returning to his bird form Bedlo escapes the dungeon by flying away. Craven must choose between revealing his secrets to Scarabus or watching his daughter be tortured. Bedlo returns, frees his son and together they help Craven.
Craven and Scarabus engage in a wizards duel. Many attacks and insults are exchanged before Scarabus sets the castle on fire. In the end Craven defeats Scarabus. Lenore insists she had been enchanted by Scarabus, but Craven doesn’t believe her. Craven, Bedlo, Rexford and Estelle escape as the castle collapses on Scarabus and Lenore.
As the film draws to a close Bedlo tries to convince Craven to change him back into a human. Craven tells him to shut his beak, and states “Quoth the raven– nevermore”.
I had a delightfully good time watching this movie. Vincent Price is the only actor I’ve ever seen who somehow manages to come off as both elegant and goofy at the same time. Peter Lorre did an excellent job as cowardly Bedlo and it was pretty cool seeing Jack Nicholson in one of his early roles. This movie is your standard cheesy Roger Corman fantasy fare, the budget is low and there’s a good chance that a lot of the sets and costumes were recycled from some of Cormans other movies. Still, there is a glorious campiness throughout this entire film that is so very fun. The music is alright, I won’t be buying the soundtrack anytime soon but it’s perfectly serviceable for every scene and never obnoxious. The special effects were alright for the time period and budget. If you are a big fan of Vincent Price movies you either have already seen this one or you need to see it, you’re going to love it.- Zwahk (Image from IMDb.com)