The Raven (1963)

The Raven
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Richard Matheson from a poem by Edgar Allen Poe
Alta Vista Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant


Dr. Craven: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, / Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. / While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, / As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door./ “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door. / Only this and nothing more.”

This Poe-inspired comedy can be pretty corny.  But it’s also really enjoyable to watch three classic horror actors ham it up to the max.

The movie begins with Vincent Price’s somber voice-over reading of Poe’s poem.  As soon as we move into the story, though, it becomes obvious we are in for a comedy.  The bird tapping at the chamber door is Dr. Adolphus Bedlo (Peter Lorre) who has been transformed into a raven by magician Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff).  He has come to Dr. Erasmus Craven (Price) to be changed back into his original form.  Scarabus was the arch enemy of Craven’s father.

A bunch of stuff happens that leads Craven to believe he must pay a call on Dr. Scarabus. He is accompanied by his own beautiful daughter Estelle, Bedlo, and Bedlo’s son Rexford (Jack Nicholson).  When he gets there he discovers his lost love Lenore has actually been lured away by Scarabus.  The raven gambit was actually Scarabus’s way of luring Craven to his mansion and learning the secrets of his powerful magic.  The film ends with a comic “duel to the death” between the two magicians.

Everything is played strictly for laughs.  All the actors turn in good performances but perhaps the most memorable is Lorre’s.  It’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.