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When Jean Thatcher is severely injured in an automobile wreck, her father, a judge, and her fiancé, Dr. Jerry Halden, request the eccentric but brilliant Dr. Richard Vollin to operate. Although retired to Hillview Heights, Vollin finally agrees to perform the surgery and falls in love with Jean. Vollin's hobby is the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and for him, Poe's poem "The Raven" is a talisman, symbolizing death, which for Vollin is the only certain part of life. Judge Thatcher realizes Vollin's infatuation with his daughter when, after she is recovered, she performs a dance interpretation of Poe's poem. The two men quarrel when the judge forbids Vollin to see his daughter, and Vollin argues that he needs her. Edmond Bateman, a murderer and thief who is trying to reform, demands that Vollin change his facial structure. Bateman is not only trying to escape the police, but he also believes that his ugly appearance causes him to do ugly deeds. Vollin cruelly alters Bateman's facial muscles to make him blind in one eye and truly hideous, then demands that Bateman serve him and promises to repair the damage in a later operation. Jean and Jerry accept Vollin's invitation to a weekend party, despite the judge's opposition. The guests, including Colonel Bertram Grant and his wife, are horrified at the sight of Bateman, who is introduced as a victim of Arab torture. During the party, Vollin shares his interpretation of "The Raven." According to Vollin, Poe, a man of genius like himself, decided to impress on others the torture he was feeling when deprived of his beloved "Lenore." Later, Jean apologizes to Bateman for being afraid of him, and Bateman tries to warn her of Vollin's evil intent. Vollin tells Bateman to take the sleeping judge into the basement and place him on a full-size model based on Poe's story "The Pit and the Pendulum." An elevator then lowers Jean's room into the torture chamber. When Jerry discovers that her room has disappeared, he awakens one of the other guests, Geoffrey, and his girl friend to assist him. Vollin closes metal shutters over the windows, however, and locks them in. Vollin then places Jean and Jerry into a shrinking room, so that in death they will be inseparable. This cruelty is more than Bateman will allow, and though shot by Vollin, he saves Jean and Jerry and Vollin dies in the shrinking room. After escaping, the others release the judge before the swinging pendulum blade can strike him.