Beautiful Jean Thatcher, a dancer, is victim of a car accident that let her between life and death. Her father, Judge Thatcher implores the eminent surgeon Dr. Vollin to operate her. Vollin is the only able to succeed the surgery but he is no longer practising and now devotes his life to some secret experiments in his also secret private surgery room. After a first refusal, he accepts to step in. On the operation table, Vollin falls in love this the beautiful creature and since will not cease to try to get her… at any cost.
In a vindicative way, he first orders Thatcher to give him Jean. The later refuses categorically : having saved her life is not sufficient enough to question her very next wedding. Revengefull, great unconditional of Edgar Allan Poe and his sophisticated torture devices that he has reproduced in the undergrounds of his mansion, Vollin is well decided to torture Jean, her fiance and her father.
When Vollin receive the visit of Edmond Bateman, a criminal who seeks to change his face, he undertakes the worst machinations. So as to make him work for him, he transforms him into a monstruosity without his knowledge, promising him to give him back a healthy face as soon as his work will be over. Although he is furious, Bateman has no other choice than accepting.
The dangerous surgeon sends an "reconcilliation" invitation towards the Judge Thatcher. Jean, her fiance, as well as others friends they have in common goes there. During the night Bateman enters Thatcher's bedroom and removes him. The poor man finds himself tied up on a large table : an huge axe with a pendulum movment over his head is a sure sign of a soon particulary awfull death. Jean's bedroom laid on an elevator lifts down in the depth of the mansion. Joined by her fiance, the two are imprisonned in a room whose walls are inexorably getting closer…
Spoiler ! the end of the story is revealed below…
While an horrible death is programmed, Bateman understands that he cannot trust on the good faith of his tortionnaire and that he will never find back his original face. He succeeds in freeing Vollin's prisoners and despite a lethal gunshot trigged by Vollin, succeeds in pushing the dangerous sadist in the shrinking wall room. Bateman redeems himself, saving inocent lives by giving his.
Here is a real masterpiece of the genre. Made out of two short news ftom Edgar Allan Poe ("The Raven" and "The Pit and the Pendulum"), Lew Landers, working under the pseudonym of Louis Friedlander on this film, succeeds a great moment of cinema. The main characters are given to the two stars of that time, Bela Lugosi (Dracula) and Boris Karloff (the monster of Frankenstein) who work together again after the undeniable success of THE BLACK CAT (1934).
Here are all the ingredients of the serials and you will be delighted to discover "the pendulum" and the "shrinking room", two of the most mystic torture devices that -thereafter- largely inspired others filmakers, especially George Lucas for his STAR WARS (1977) and other Indiana Jones. The photography is superb, strongly marked by black and white that strenghten the contrast of the film. THE RAVEN is a great classic it is necessary to see at least once in its life.