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Film / The Raven (1963)

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The Raven is a 1963 Horror Comedy film loosely based on the poem of the same name, written by Richard Matheson, directed by Roger Corman, and starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff.

The fifth film in Corman's "Poe Cycle", it tells the story of 16th-century sorcerer Dr. Erasmus Craven (Price), who gets visited by the eponymous bird... who actually turns out to be another sorcerer, Dr. Adolphus Bedlo (Lorre), who was transformed into said bird by still another sorcerer, Dr. Scarabus (Karloff). After Craven restores Bedlo to himself, they — along with Craven's wife Lenore (Hazel Court), his daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess), and Bedlo's son Rexford (Jack Nicholson) — go after Scarabus for revenge.


"The Macabre Masterpiece of Tropes!":

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie accurate adapts the first verses of the poem, but resolutely goes in a completely different way as soon as the Raven is introduced, which puts the amount of screentime based on Edgar Allan Poe's poem a whooping seven minutes — opening credits included. The rest of the film is not only unrelated to the novel, but generally doesn't have much in common with Poe's work in general.
  • Anything but That!: Dr Bedlo convinces Scarabus to turn him back into a bird rather than have to face torture.
  • The Archmage: Dr. Scarabus, the frighteningly powerful (and extremely wealthy) Grandmaster of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers. Complete with Big Fancy Castle and oddly pope-like clothing.
  • Beneath the Mask: A recurring theme in the film.
    • Dr. Erasmus Craven first comes across as an innocent, yet inept wizard, only to reveal that he is the most powerful sorcerer in the film.
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    • Dr. Bedlo acts as a drunken fool of a wizard with a grudge against Dr. Scarabus for beating him in an "unfair" duel, only to reveal that he was working for Dr. Scarabus the whole time under the promise that he teaches him secret magic.
    • Dr. Scarabus presents himself as a kind and humble host that does not provoke easily only to have masterminded the entire night's events, has taken Craven's wife willingly for himself and would even torture his daughter so that he would give up the secrets of his family's magic.
    • Lenore is believed to be dead only to not only be alive, but she is willingly with Scarabus for his wealth and power. She tries to win Craven back when the castle burns, but he won't have it.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Dr. Scarabus has one, which collapses at the end as a result of Craven deflecting fireballs at the walls.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Dr Scarabus loses his magic at the end. He can still do it but at Inept Mage levels.
  • Collapsing Lair: Scarabus' castle at the end.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Was adapted into a Dell Movie Classic.
  • The Ditz: Rexford.
  • Dr. Genericius: Dr. Erasmus Craven and Dr. Scarabus, obviously. Dr. Bedlo's name does not end in -us, but is still a Latin-sounding name, as well.
  • Faking the Dead: Craven has been mourning his late wife Lenore, who, it turns out, is alive and well, having left him for Scarabus.
  • Gold Digger: Lenore admits to Scarabus' face that she has no actual feelings for him and that she left Craven for him for his wealth and power. Scarabus knows this and doesn't seem to mind.
  • Gratuitous Latin: While casting his spells, Bedlo says "Veni vidi vici", "De mortuis nil nisi bonum", "Cave canem" (beware of the dog), "Si vis pacem parabellum" ("If you want peace, prepare for war") and "Ceterum censio Carthaginem esse delendam" ("Furthermore, I believe Carthage should be destroyed.")
  • Implacable Man: Scarabus survives his castle crumbling on top of him, although the magical effort needed to protect himself strains him so much that he loses control of his powers in the ordeal.
  • In Name Only: Has very little to do with the original poem, not just in terms of having very little to adapt, but also in terms of its overall tone, world, and narrative.
  • Informed Ability: The whole reason why Dr. Scarabus engineered everything was so that Craven would divulge in the secrets of his family's gestural magic. Thing is though, Scarabus is already fluent in gestural magic of his own, and Craven only wins their Wizard Duel by being the craftier sorcerer. What exactly was he hoping to discover?
  • Magical Society: The Brotherhood of Sorcerers that Dr Scarabus is head of.
  • Meaningful Name: While Craven is a family name, Dr. Craven himself admits to being a coward for not taking his birthright as Grandmaster of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers, citing his apathy as the reason why an Evil Sorcerer like Scarabus was able to rise to power.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: All the wizards in the film are called 'Doctor', which may imply graduation from some sort of Magic School — it's never explained.
  • No Ontological Inertia: When Scarabus is defeated, Lenore tries to bluff that she was under his spell and is now free, but nobody believes it for a second.
  • Novelization: Eunice Sudak wrote one based on the script which was republished in 2012.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: After Craven, his daughter and Rexford are imprisoned by Scarabus and Lenorre, Scarabus then has Bedlo wrapped up, ready to be tortured like the rest of them in-spite of having helped Scarabus by leading them there in the first place. When he begs for his life at the expense of the others, Scarabus grants his wish and turns him into a raven again. After they escape, Craven "takes it under advisement" when Bedlo asks to be turned back, citing that even though Bedlo helped them by untying his hands, he was still the one that led them into danger in the first place.
  • Sadistic Choice: Scarabus forces Craven to choose between Estelle getting tortured and giving up the secrets of his "hand magic".
  • Talking Animal: The title bird (though only because it's really Bedlo turned into a bird by Scarabus).
  • Wizard Duel: Between Craven and Scarabus. Hilariously, their magic being the only factor at play, they're not even doing anything during the duel other than wave their hands, and go through the whole thing comfortably sitting in armchairs.


Video Example(s):


The Raven (1963) Pillory Scene

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