“Men like Scarabus thrive on the apathy of others.”
After helping a magician-turned-raven (Peter Lorre) return to his human form, the son (Vincent Price) of a deceased grand sorceror — accompanied by his daughter (Olive Sturgess), Lorre, and Lorre’s son (Jack Nicholson) — heads to the castle of his father’s rival, Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff), who may be living with Price’s long-lost wife Lenore (Hazel Court).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Boris Karloff Films
- Edgar Allan Poe Films
- Jack Nicholson Films
- Peter Lorre Films
- Roger Corman Films
- Vincent Price Films
- Witches and Wizards
After successfully injecting dark humor into the second vignette of their Poe-inspired anthology film Tales of Terror (1962), Roger Corman and screenwriter Richard Matheson decided to craft this overtly comedic parody, which only very loosely adheres to elements of its supposed source material (Poe’s poem “The Raven”). While the premise is clever, the film gets off to a decidedly creaky start, as the humor remains dull at best, and we keep hoping for more biting wit to emerge; it’s not until Karloff arrives on the scene that things finally begin to perk up — indeed, he’s such an engaging presence that whenever his character is part of the storyline, one can’t help suddenly feeling more involved.
Karloff’s culminating duel with Price — while marred somewhat by corny low-budget special effects — remains the film’s undisputed comedic highlight. Watch for a young, handsome Jack Nicholson, who gives a decent (if not particularly inspired) performance as Lorre’s son.
Note: Karloff co-starred in another Poe-related film entitled The Raven (1935) nearly 30 years earlier; the two would make an interesting double-bill.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Boris Karloff as Dr. Scarabus
- Game performances by the ensemble cast
- The fun duel finale
No, though it’s worth a one-time look, simply for its fun moments — and as a cult favorite.