(director: Roger Corman; screenwriters: Richard Matheson/from the poem by Edgar Allan Poe; cinematographer: Floyd Crosby; editor: Ronald Sinclair; music: Les Baxter; cast: Vincent Price (Erasmus Craven), Peter Lorre (Dr. Bedlo), Boris Karloff (Dr. Scarabus), Hazel Court (Lenore Craven), Jack Nicholson (Rexford Bedlo), Olive Sturgess (Estelle Craven), William Baskin (Grimes,Craven’s servant); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roger Corman; Warner Home Video/AIP; 1963)
“Anything to do with Poe other than hearing The Raven poem read aloud is non-existent.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Writer Richard Matheson uses Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven as fodder for this parody with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff playing rival 15th-century magicians. A very young Jack Nicholson finds himself upstaged by the veteran thespians. Roger Corman (“The Black Cat”/”Tales of Terror”/”Pit and the Pendulum”) directs this AIP feature using many of the same people from the other films he did about Poe. The comedy is somewhat awkward and anything to do with Poe other than hearing The Raven poem read aloud is non-existent, but it was fun to see the three eccentric stars together playing around with magic and acting goofy in this throwaway silly Grand Guignol comedy.
After a depressed good magician Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) reads Poe’s poem The Raven and laments for his deceased wife Lenore (Hazel Court), a foul-talking raven flies into his quarters. The raven is devious small-time magician Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre), who was transformed by powerful evil magician Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff) as a punishment for insulting his powers and asks Erasmus to restore him to his rightful form. This calls for a potion with ingredients such as bat’s blood, shavings from a gallows’s bird, and dead man’s hair. Erasmus gets those ingredients in his deceased father’s lab, which he unlocks for the first time in 20 years. Dad was a former Grand Master of the Brotherhood of Magicians, where Scarabus is now Grand Master and Bedlo a member. Erasmus quit two years ago when Lenore died. Upon being restored to his rightful form, Bedlo sees a photo of Lenore and tells of seeing the beautiful woman in Scarabus’s castle and convinces Erasmus to visit there. They take along Bedlo’s much abused son Rexford (Jack Nicholson) and Erasmus’s sweet daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess), Lenore’s step-daughter. When Erasmus finds Lenore alive, having voluntarily deserted him for Scarabus, he realizes that he’s been led into a trap. It leads to a magic show for a conclusion, as Erasmus and Scarabus fight a ‘duel to death’ using their powers.
REVIEWED ON 2/24/2006 GRADE: B-