The Raven (1963 film)
Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown
|Directed by||Roger Corman|
|Produced by||Roger Corman|
|Written by||Richard Matheson|
|Based on||"The Raven"
by Edgar Allan Poe
|Music by||Les Baxter|
|Edited by||Ronald Sinclair|
|Running time||86 min.|
It was 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.
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
"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," said Matheson.
The movie was shot in 15 days.
Roger Corman said that although they kept closely to the structure and story script "we did more improvisation on that film than any of the others." The improvisation was in terms of dialogue and bits of business from the actors.
During shooting, Peter Lorre ad-libbed a number of famous lines in the film including:
- "How the hell should I know?", after Vincent Price asks "shall I ever see the rare and radiant Lenore again?"
- "Where else?" after Vincent Price says "my father was interned below"
- "Hard place to keep clean".
Roger Corman says that Lorre's improvisations confused both Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, but Price adapted to it well while Karloff struggled. Corman:
Overall I would say we had as good a spirit on The Raven as any film I've ever worked on, except for a couple of moments with Boris. There was a slight edge to it, because Boris came in with a carefully worked out preparation, so when Peter started improvising lines, it really threw Boris off from his preparation.
Corman says the hostility between Jack Nicholson and Peter Lorre as father and son came from the actors rather than the script.
Vincent Price later recalled about the final duel:
Boris hated being strung up in the air on those chairs. He was terribly crippled and we were both floating in the air on these wires. It wasn't a pleasant feeling! And it hated having that snaked wrapped around my neck for two hours... I hate snakes.
Boris Karloff later said he was annoyed at having to wear the heavy cape.
The film was popular at the box office.
A novelization of the film was written by Eunice Sudak adapted from Richard Matheson's screenplay and published by Lancer Books in paperback. This novel was republished by Bear Manor Media in 2012.
- Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 455
- French, Lawrence, "The Making of The Raven", The Raven, Bear Manor Media 2012
- Richard Ekdstedt, Introduction, The Raven novelisation by Eunice Sudak, based on script by Richard Matheson, Bear Manor Media 2012
- "Top Rental Features of 1963", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 71 gives the figure in the US and Canada as $1,400,000
- "The Raven". The New York Times.
- F.S.N. (July 5, 1935). "The Raven (1935) THE SCREEN; " The Raven," With Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, Is a Horror Film in More Than One Sense". The New York Times.