The Raven (1963 film)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
It is the fifth in the so-called Corman-Poe cycle of eight films largely featuring adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories produced by Roger Corman and released by AIP. The film was written by Richard Matheson based on references to Poe's poem "The Raven". The supporting cast includes a young Jack Nicholson.
Three decades earlier, Karloff had appeared in another film with the same title, Lew Landers' 1935 horror film The Raven with Bela Lugosi. Aside from the title, the two films bear no resemblance to one another.
A novelization of the film was written by Eunice Sudak adapted from Richard Matheson's screenplay and published by Lancer Books in paperback.
Set during the 15th century, the sorcerer Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) has been mourning the death of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court) for over two years, much to the chagrin of his daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess). One night he is visited by a raven, who happens to be a transformed wizard, Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre). Together they brew a potion that restores Bedlo to his old self. Bedlo explains he had been transformed by the evil Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff) in an unfair duel, and both decide to see Scarabus, Bedlo to exact revenge and Craven to look for his wife's ghost, which Bedlo reportedly saw at Scarabus' castle. After fighting off the attack of Craven's coachman, who apparently acted under the influence of Scarabus, they set out to the castle, joined by Craven's daughter Estelle and Bedlo's son Rexford (Jack Nicholson).
At the castle, Scarabus greets his guests with false friendship, and Bedlo is apparently killed as he conjures a storm in a last act of defiance against his nemesis. At night, Rexford finds him alive and well, hiding in the castle. Craven, meanwhile, is visited and tormented by Lenore, who is revealed to be alive and well too, having faked her death two years before to move away with Scarabus. As Craven, Estelle, Rexford and Bedlo try to escape the castle, Scarabus stops them, and they are tied and locked up. Bedlo panics and flees away in raven form, having convinced Scarabus to turn him back into bird form rather than face torture. As Craven is confronted with the choice of Estelle's torture or of him giving away the secrets of his "hand magic", Bedlo flies back in, frees Rexford, and together aid Craven.
Craven and Scarabus then seat facing each other and engage in a magic duel. After a lengthy performance of narrow escapes and derision, Craven defeats Scarabus, and escapes with his friends after rejecting Lenore, who tries to reconcile with him after alleging she had been "under a spell". The castle then tumbles down on Scarabus and his mistress, but they are shown to survive, though Scarabus has been stripped of his magic.
Rexford and Estelle retreat alone, while Bedlo tries to convince Craven to turn him back to human form once more. Craven tells him to shut his beak and recites the famous lines from Edgar Allan Poe's poem: "Quoth the raven - nevermore".
- Vincent Price as Dr. Erasmus Craven
- Peter Lorre as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo
- Boris Karloff as Dr. Scarabus
- Hazel Court as Lenore Craven
- Olive Sturgess as Estelle Craven
- Jack Nicholson as Rexford Bedlo
- Connie Wallace as Maid
- William Baskin as Grimes
- Aaron Saxon as Gort
For this movie, Corman worked with people who had experience with horror to make a horror-comedy movie, and he would be pleased with all involved. For instance, Vincent Price and Corman were working on Poe films, Boris Karloff did Universal horror films, and Peter Lorre did films of suspense in the 1930s and 1940s along with mainstream films. To this day the film is liked for its spoof of magic and, simply, Corman's comic take on Poe. It is also remembered as a film that introduced Jack Nicholson: he later stated that he liked working on the film, but did not like the title star, the raven. Although the bird was trained, it defecated on almost everyone, including Nicholson. On the title star, he said, "I hated that bird".