The Raven!

I’m starting up The Raven in 20 minutes, and will make an occasional comment here in honor of Roger Corman.

5:30 The movie begins with the wonderful voice of Vincent Price reciting Poe’s poem, The Raven. This may be the very last moment the movie has any real connection to the poem, or Poe, or anything from literature. That’s OK, we know what to expect from a Corman movie.

5:32 First bit of slapstick: Vincent walks into a telescope. Har har. Then he moans about his lost Lenore, and is startled by his daughter, Estelle. I guess that counts as a jump scare.

5:35 A raven raps at his window. It’s actually Peter Lorre, who when asked about Lenore, says “How the hell would I know” instead of “Nevermore,” and demands wine and that Vincent should restore him to his human form. He asks for stuff like jellied spiders, which Vincent doesn’t have, since he’s a vegetarian. Good for him! But the magical ingredients might be down in his father’s basement lab.

5:41 He has some nice cobwebs down there. And a tarantula! The movie is shaping up well. Then we get what looks like an undergraduate chemistry lab with colored chemicals and fire and smoke. The raven drinks the potion and turns into Peter Lorre, mostly. They need more potion, but are out of one ingredient, Dead Man’s Hair. Fortunately, Vincent’s father’s corpse is in the basement so they get more, while Lorre explains how Dr Scarabus turned him into a bird. This sets up the big conflict: Vincent needs to battle Scarabus for the leadership of a mystical society.

5:51 Lorre is restored, but the corpse of Vincent’s father warned him, “Beware!” He’s well-preserved and animated for the long dead. Lorre then noticed a portrait of the late Lenore, and says he saw her at Scarabus’ place. The plot thickens! Motives are motivated! Vincent must rescue Lenore’s spirit.

5:51 Vincent walks into a door and knocks himself out, while a servant barges in, swinging an axe. Vincent wakes up in time to zap the bad guy with magic missile. He was under the mental control of Scarabus. Lorre’s son shows up at the door. It’s Jack Nicholson! Looking young and handsome, so handsome that Estelle makes goo-goo eyes at him. The romantic subplot is established.

6:03 Man, this movie has everything. Car chase scene, only it’s a horse-drawn carriage driven by Jack, who is possessed and driving like he’s been hanging out in the Overlook Hotel. The possession conveniently ends when they arrive at Scarabus’s castle.

6:08 Boris Karloff (Scarabus) appears! He offers a friendly welcome, but also denies that he has put Lenore’s soul in bondage. They go to dinner. Karloff is unctuous, denying any enmity. They sit around complimenting each other on their mastery of magic by hand gesture. Lorre challenges Karloff to a magical duel. Karloff casually liquidates him with a lightning bolt, turning him into raspberry jam.

6:20 Bedtime in the creepy ol’ castle. Jack sneaks into Estelle’s room for unclear reasons, and then is locked inside. He has to go out a window and shuffle along a ledge (why not stay with Estelle? She’s cute, and not as dangerous as a high ledge in a rainstorm.) Meanwhile, Lenore (?) appears outside Vincent’s window. She then returns to Karloff — apparently she’s a wicked person who left Vincent for Karloff’s money.

6:26 Jack is outside the castle, and goes back in to find that Lorre is still alive! He was trying to fool Scarabus by pretending to have been killed. Jack goes off to rescue Estelle, while Lorre meets with Karloff. Lorre had been scheming! He had been turned into a raven to lure Vincent to the castle. The plot is getting a bit convoluted, but fun. It’s Karloff, Lorre, and Lenore vs. Vincent, Jack, and Estelle!

6:33 Karloff turns on Lorre, and throws him into a dungeon with Vincent, Estelle, and Jack. It’s going to be 2 against 4 — a strategic error. Lenore comes by to gloat. She is not a nice person at all. Lorre tries to betray the others, and Karloff turns him back into a raven. Vincent’s hands are tied, so he’s helpless; Karloff threatens to torture Estelle unless the secrets of his magical hand manipulations are revealed.

6:39 Lorre returns to untie Jack and Vincent! Karloff suggests a magical duel to the death. Oh boy! They sit in chairs facing each other and do various conjurations against each other. It’s very silly with cheap 1960s style tricks and cuts and gadgets on wires, but this is the climax of the movie, you know. Vincent wins, of course. Lenore tries to sidle back up to Vincent, who is unmoved, and Karloff grabs her and holds her as the heroes flee the castle, as it collapses on Karloff and Lenore, who later crawl out of the rubble. Karloff’s powers are gone. The treacherous Lorre remains a raven and returns to the bust of Pallas.

And that’s the end. It was a bit of low-budget fluff, classic Roger Corman fare, but it never takes itself seriously and most of the actors looked like they were just having fun. The weakest participant was Nicholson — his role seemed mostly superfluous. Price, Lorre, and Karloff were in great form. Lenore (Hazel Court) was having a ball vamping it up and was a perfect cartoon femme fatale. Estelle (Olive Sturgess)…well, she was paired with Nicholson, and they were a good match. Would you believe it was written by Richard Matheson, who wrote scripts for several Corman films at the time?

Five stars. This was good gonzo schlock churned out for the enjoyment of the audience and to keep some well-known actors well-supplied with wine.


  1. John Morales says

    “No! I’m closing that browser window right now!”

    Your self-control is impressive.

  2. Hemidactylus says

    I see it’s on Tubi and PlutoTV and it would be cool to synch watch but those free platforms throw commercials in that would throw the synched watching off. Besides I’m halfway through the first season of 3 Body Problem and it has taken over my brain. Must. Watch. Now!

  3. Hemidactylus says

    Ok I’m on the ad spree in Tubi. Not sure if Pluto would be better than that. Post where you’re at in the movie. I’m on opening credits.

  4. Hemidactylus says

    The quality of the film is pretty good on my 4K. I don’t recall even seeing it before. Jack Nicholson is in it?

  5. numerobis says

    He asks for stuff like jellied spiders, which Vincent doesn’t have, since he’s a vegetarian.

    Wait, those aren’t vegetarian?

  6. Hemidactylus says

    The raven’s culinary preferences remind me of the French castaway in Life of Pi.

  7. Hemidactylus says

    Interesting tidbit:

    The song opens with a spoken word passage, read by English actor Barry Clayton,[3] which quotes Revelation 12:12 and Revelation 13:18. According to lead vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, the band originally asked Vincent Price to read the intro, but decided to hire Clayton after Price refused to do it for anything less than £25,000.[4]

  8. Hemidactylus says

    This is a fairly short film by current standards. Oh, there’s his wife outside the window,

  9. Hemidactylus says

    It got a but like this for a second:

    So Estelle is Lenore’s stepdaughter? That explains Lenore’s callous disregard I guess.

  10. Hemidactylus says

    The old eggs cracked on the head versus falling chandelier battle! So cliche.

  11. Hemidactylus says

    So he’s ok with Jack Nicholson hanging out with his daughter unchaperoned? A permissive parent I see.

  12. grovergardner says

    Okay, this is going on the Friday Night movie list. ;-) Even my wife loves a good spoofy horror film.

  13. lotharloo says

    My only introduction to Roger Corman was hearing Theatre of Tragedy song “And when He Falleth” which has some dialogue lines from “The Masque of the Red Death”. This is a fan made YT video featuring scenes from the movie.

    I gotta say Vincent Price’s voice acting, at least on this part, was superb.

  14. jenorafeuer says

    Matheson wrote a lot of odd stories, and screenplays for many of his own stories as well as the screenplays based on Poe’s work. The (Incredible) Shrinking Man, “Button, Button”, “Terror at 20,000 Feet”… he didn’t just work with Roger Corman a lot, he worked with Rod Serling a lot, having written about sixteen Twilight Zone episodes. That by itself should tell you a fair bit about the sort of writer he was.

  15. keinsignal says

    I recall reading somewhere that Karloff despised Lorre personally, and both Lorre and Price took some delight in pranking or otherwise antagonizing Karloff on the set of The.Raven. Which, if true, really does shine through in the on-screen chemistry between the three.

  16. xohjoh2n says


    And I recently discovered someone has put together a DDR stepchart for that reading…

  17. Silentbob says

    @ 35, 37, 40

    Price definitely wins. Lee and Walken have a voice for a horror villain, but Price has a voice for a horror narrator. And he just seems more in character.

    (I do appreciate, though, the device that Walken is… knitting.)


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