**NOTE: Spencer Charters was billed as Geoffrey Pinkey in the credits but actually played Col. Bertram Grant.
Ian Wolfe was billed as Col. Bertram Grant in the credits but actually played Geoffrey.
The character of Dr. Jerry Holden is listed in the credits and captions as Jerry Halden.
They are listed below in their correct associations.**
Dancer Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware) is driving fast in a rainstorm. Losing control, she crashes and is brought to a nearby hospital. After examination by several doctors who say they cant do anything for her, Jeans fiancé Dr. Jerry Holden (Lester Matthews) suggests Dr. Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi), formerly associated with the hospital but now a recluse doing only research.
Meanwhile, Dr. Vollin is heard reciting Edgar Allan Poes The Raven to museum curator Chapman (Arthur Hoyt) who tries to buy Vollins collection of Poe memorabilia. He is told about his torture devices but is rushed out by Vollin.
A phone call to Vollin is made, who refuses to help, citing that the other doctors are competent. Her father, Judge Thatcher (Samuel S. Hinds) takes the phone and begs Vollin to save his daughters life. He refuses and hangs up. Finding out where the doctor lives, he goes to Vollins home and continues begging in person. Vollin appears to have no compassion or sympathy for her and refuses. Thatcher appeals to him as a doctor who has taken an oath, to which Vollin replies, I make no such oath. I am a law unto myself. Death hasnt the same significance for me as it has for you, Vollin concludes. Insisting that Vollin save her life, Thatcher is told by Vollin that the other doctors are competent. It is only when told that everyone says that Dr. Vollin is the only one who can save her that he rises, puffed up, saying, So, they DO say that I'm the only one? Very well, I will go.
The operation proceeds, with Vollin being shown as having an unusual interest in the patients beauty.
One month later, Jean is being entertained by Vollin in his home. Having listened to him play Bachs Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on organ, she gushes that Vollin is not only a brilliant surgeon but a great musician. She intimates that maybe he is more than an extraordinary man, to which he eagerly answers a god? With the taint of human emotions. She tells him she wishes she could repay him for saving her life. Clutching her and staring into her eyes he tells her the restraint we put upon ourselves can drive us mad. Uncomfortable, she makes an excuse to leave, reminding him of her performance the following night. Nothing can keep me away, he promises. She tells him she will have a surprise for him that night and leaves.
The next evening a show marquee sign tells of her performance in a dance interpretation of Poes The Raven . She dances while a man dressed as Poe (Raine Bennett) recites the poem. In one of the balcony box seats, Thatcher observes Vollin madly obsessing over his daughters performance.
Afterwards backstage, Jerry reassures Jean that the audience liked her performance, saying that twelve encores was enough. Entering the dressing room to congratulate her include Pinkey (Ian Wolfe) and Mary Burns (Inez Courtney), her father and Dr. Vollin, who kisses her hand, gushing about her surprise Poe interpretation. Again, Thatcher observes Vollin taking more than a casual interest in Jean.
The next day Thatcher arrives at Vollins to tell him to leave Jean alone. She is in danger of becoming infatuated with you. We cant let her get any ideas about you, can we? the judge intones, She is engaged to young Jerry Holden, he tells Vollin. Speaking of his interest in Jean, Vollin crushes a test tube in his hand. This convinces Thatcher that Vollin is seriously involved in a similar infatuation. Told to leave her alone, Vollin insists that the judge bring his daughter to him. I find you stark staring mad, Thatcher tells him and leaves.
Edmond Bateman (Boris Karloff), an escaped convict trying to disguise himself is given the address of Dr. Vollin in a local tavern. He arrives that evening and is invited into Vollins office. When Vollin addresses him by name, Bateman wants to know who told him. It is explained that Batemans violent prison break and photo were in the newspapers. Vollin seems very interested that Batemans bank robbery and mutilation of a bank cashier's face with an acetylene torch was especially torturous. Come to ask Vollin to change his face so he will not be recognized, Bateman is promised help but only if he agrees to commit murder and torture. Desperate, he agrees and is told the alteration will be done now. Bateman is led into a room and made to lie on a table for surgery.
Later, a bandaged Bateman is checked on by the doctor. When the patient awakens, Vollin raises him up vertically and begins slowly removing the bandages. As his face is revealed, half of it is shown to be horribly disfigured and one eye dislocated. Bateman speaks in a raspy voice, asking if he looks different. Yes, Vollin replies with noted glee. Feeling something is not right with his face, Bateman feels with his fingers and demands to see his reflection. Dr. Vollin agrees and leaves the room, telling him to wait. As Bateman gets up and looks around, several curtains are opened, revealing a series of large mirrors, each one reflecting the ugliness of Bateman one by one. Horrified, he begins shooting, breaking each mirror. From a grate near the ceiling, Vollin appears, laughing hysterically at Batemans misery. Having run out of bullets, Bateman frustratingly throws the gun at Vollin's face.
Moments later Vollin asks Bateman if he is ready to do the murder job, telling him he must answer yes or no. Bateman insists that his face be fixed but Vollin says he must do this job for him first. He agrees. Vollin returns to the room a moment later, giving Bateman some clothes to put on and then report for further instructions.
Having invited Jean, Jerry, Pinkey, Mary and Col. Bertram Grant (Spencer Charters) and his wife Harriet (Maidel Turner) to a party, they make bets on a horserace game which is mechanically run in Dr. Vollins home. At one point Jean announces she will have to go upstairs to fix her hair and does so, which is noted by Vollin and Bateman, who now serves as the butler. Meanwhile, Judge Thatcher arrives home to find Vollins written invitation to the party, to which also a note added that Jean and Jerry decided to go and for her father to join them.
When Thatcher arrives, Vollin immediately apologizes for what he said the other day, asking him to forgive him. The judge seems reluctant but is quickly reassured by Vollin, who joyfully leads him into the party. Bateman is told to go upstairs and tell Jean her father has arrived. When he opens the door and Jean sees Bateman in the mirror behind her, she screams and runs downstairs into her fathers arms. Everyone crowds around as she tells of this awful man who came into her room. Vollin interrupts and tells everyone to come and sit while he tells the story of his servants unfortunate disfigurement. His guests are told with some relish how he served with Vollin in his regiment and was tortured by the enemy, who mutilated his face. Describing his interest in death and torture, he makes a reference to Poe. Jean asks what is Vollins interpretation of The Raven and is told that Poe was a great genius who was denied his love, Lenore. Getting tired, it is suggested that they all retire to their rooms for the night and they begin going upstairs. When Jean passes Bateman, she apologizes, saying she was suddenly surprised and would not have screamed if she had known. Bateman sees this sympathetic gesture and acts as if he wants to tell his secret. Vollin notices Bateman talking to Jean and is concerned.
Outside a windy thunderstorm is beating down trees.
Upstairs, Judge Thatcher is shown to his room by Vollin, who is called over by Col. Grant and asked about drafts in the house. Assured they will be comfortable, the Colonel and his wife go upstairs to the third floor where their room is. Thatcher comes into Jeans room with Jerry and begins ranting again about Vollin being mad and dangerous. He tells the couple to come home with him now. His fears are laughed at by Jerry, who says Vollin is just being amusing and is too reputable and distinguished a surgeon to be considered dangerous. Against his better judgment Thatcher resigns himself to stay the night, but not before Jerry announces that he will switch rooms with Jean for her protection.
Knocking on the door and entering, Bateman comes in to try to tell Judge Thatcher what is going on. Vollins voice is heard calling Bateman. Coming to the door, he chastises Bateman into going downstairs. Trying to reassure his guests, Vollin apologizes and says his servant probably just wanted to see if he could help them. Jean says they are now comfortable and Vollin bids them goodnight.
Going down into a dungeon below, Vollin shows Bateman his instruments of torture, telling him many are described by Poe in his writings. He says they are very old but warns ready for use. He shows Bateman a slab with manacles for feet and arms to hold a man still for the Pit and Pendulum device. Getting up on the slab to demonstrate, Vollin shows how a man may be held captive by throwing a lever. Bateman quickly throws the lever, which traps Vollin. Gotcha! Bateman says grimly. As the pendulum swings slowly back and forth over him, Vollin tells Bateman to release him, reminding him that should anything happen to me, you remain the horrible monster you are. Bateman reluctantly releases him. Vollin tells him the blade descends upon the victim in fifteen minutes time which can be seen on a clock built into the stone wall.
Later Bateman comes up through a trap door into Jeans room, but suddenly the wind causes a tree to crash through the window, awakening Jean. Looking around, she sees Bateman, who retreats and closes the trap door. She screams and runs to Jerrys room, telling him she is frightened. They go into her room and Jerry tells her its only a tree which the storm blew into the window. She says she saw a man coming up through the floor, which he amusingly thinks is her imagination. He tells her to sleep in his room, and he will stay in hers.
In Vollins office, he tells Bateman at gunpoint to leave the girl alone and strikes him with a small whip. Just then a knock at the door interrupts them. The Colonel wants a sleeping powder for his wife. Dr. Vollin comes back with two powders, telling him there is one for each of them. Vollin tells Bateman that now the job will begin.
Sneaking into Thatchers room, Bateman strong-arms him out of bed and downstairs to the torture chamber. Along the way Thatchers cries are heard by Jerry, who attempts to locate him. They enter Vollins study through the bookcase panel entrance into a passageway down below. Bateman punches Jerry and prevents him from entering, closing the door. Below, Thatcher is brought before a waiting Vollin, who apologizes to the judge for the savagery of his servant. Bateman is told to put Thatcher on the slab. The blade is turned on and Thatcher asks about it. Vollin tells him it will reach him in fifteen minutes. He explains that he is the sanest man of all because he removes torture from his life by torturing others. Judge Thatcher nervously watches the swinging pendulum as Vollin laughs maniacally. Meanwhile, Jerry comes to and tries to find how to open the bookcase entrance.
Vollin goes to a master control and throws a switch which lowers Jeans bedroom down to the dungeon. He watches Jean screaming as the large elevator reaches the bottom where he is laughing at her. Closing the door, he seems amused by her cries. Unable to open the panel, Jerry runs upstairs to Jeans room and opens the door as he hears her cries. Holding onto the doorknob, he swings in midair where the room has been lowered. He is barely able to recover and go out the door again. He calls for the others to help him and they follow. He explains that Jean and her father have been taken and to wake the Grants. A few minutes later Jerry is told that the Grants seem to have been drugged and cannot be awakened. They try to find the opening to the bookcase panel. Jerry picks up the phone to call, but this is anticipated by Vollin, who switches off the phones from his control. At the same time another switch lowers steel shutters on all the windows, sealing them in.
Vollin tells Bateman to quiet the girl. As he goes to do this, Vollin tells Thatcher that he has a most delightful plan for her. Bateman opens the door and tells Jean he said to stop. She stares at his face. He tells her he knows he is ugly and that Vollin did it. Saying Vollin is mad, she asks Bateman to help her get out. He says no, because the doctor will fix his face. She tells Bateman that Vollin wont help him but that she will. He is called back by Vollin and told to attend to Thatcher.
Vollin now opens the bookcase door and Jerry says he will go in. The others follow. Finding a passageway leading downstairs to the dungeon, Jerry sees Bateman standing by Thatcher and a fight ensues. Vollin holds a gun on Jean. Jerry runs to where Jean is standing with Vollin. Bateman approaches and holds Jerry. Meanwhile, Thatcher tells the others to release him from the slab. When told the lever is locked, Thatcher tells them the servant must have the key. They rush in and see Jean and Jerry held at gunpoint by Vollin. He tells them they are in time for a wedding. He tells Bateman to open the room door, and then tells Jean and Jerry to go in. The switch is thrown to close the steel door. They are told they will remain in this room forever and that their love will make it beautiful. Bateman comes over and asks Vollin what happens in that room. He is told that it is another of Poes stories: the room where the walls come together. Dr. Vollin now loudly proclaims that his torture is complete and that Poe is avenged. Bateman asks if they will be crushed. Vollin says yes, telling Bateman that he will fix his face now. Again Bateman asks if the girl will be crushed to death and is told yes. He tells Vollin no and goes to throw the switch. Vollin threatens him and when the switch is thrown Bateman is shot and staggers. Getting the key, Pinkey goes and frees Thatcher.
There is a struggle between Bateman and Vollin, who is knocked out and dragged into the room by Bateman as the couple emerges. Bateman rushes to close the door. Vollin cries out to Bateman as the door closes and the walls close in to crush him. When Bateman and Vollin are dead, Mary screams and says we forgot the Grants! They are shown snoring in their beds.
Jean and Jerry are seen driving home and she says she was almost crushed. He jokes that he will finish the process, only softer. She tells him that he is now the big bad raven.