Although Roger Corman narrowly managed to avoid self-mockery in his pulpy, flamboyant adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe tales, it appears that the director chose this opportunity to let loose with outright parody; the result is a wonderfully entertaining romp with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
The first screen teaming of legendary horror stars Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre -- later billed as The Triumvirate of Terror -- this so-called adaptation uses Poe's most famous poem as a springboard for Grand Guignol comedy from scriptwriter Richard Matheson.
Melancholy magician Erasmus Craven (Price), having recently relinquished his membership in the Brotherhood of Sorcerers after the apparent death of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court), is paid a visit by a foul-mouthed talking raven, claiming to be small-time wizard Adolphus Bedlo (Lorre). After some persuasion, Craven returns Bedlo to human form, reversing a spell placed by the evil Dr. Scarabus (Karloff), Craven's chief rival.
After learning that a woman bearing a strong likeness to Lenore was seen in the Doctor's company, Craven accompanies Bedlo to Scarabus' castle, where the resulting battle of wills escalates into all-out magical warfare between the two embittered sorcerers.
Corman and company relished the opportunity to poke fun at the staid Poe series, and the distinguished leads contribute to the spirit of fun by lampooning their own cinematic reputations.
Fans of Jack Nicholson (who cut his acting teeth on this and other AIP productions) should enjoy his melodramatic performance here as Bedlo's straight-arrow son; Nicholson would later co-star with Karloff in Corman's The Terror, which was shot in two days using the same sets!