The Raven (1963)

The fifth of Roger Corman’s Poe movies, this was written by Richard Mattheson and based on the poem “The Raven.” It has an astounding cast with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff — who was also in the 1935 adaption — as sorcerers locked in magical combat with one another.

In the book The Raven, Mattheson said, “After I heard they wanted to make a movie out of a poem, I felt that was an utter joke, so comedy was really the only way to go with it.”

As Dr. Erasmus Craven (Price) pines for his lost wife Lenore (Hazel Court, The Man Who Could Cheat Death), he is visited by a raven that he helped to transform back into the human form of Dr. Bedlo (Lorre). Now, Bedlo wants revenge on the man who turned him into a beast — Dr. Scarabus (Karloff) — and gets Craven to come with him, claiming that he’s seen Lenore’s ghost in his enemy’s castle. Along for the ride are Craven’s daughter Estelle and Bedlo’s son Rexford, who is a very young Jack Nicholson.

It all turns out that Lenore is alive and faked her death to become Scarabus’ mistress and doesn’t even bat an eye when the evil wizard tortures her daughter. Of course, a duel between magicians is the only way this can all end.

Lorre was given to improv, which Price grew to enjoy, Nicholson loved and Karloff hated. Between that and the goofy Latin phrases the magicians say when they cast spells, this movie always makes me laugh.

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