A surgeon obsessed with the torture ideas of Edgar Allan Poe uses a criminal to get revenge when he suffers unrequited love.
After a woman is in a car accident, doctors call Dr. Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi), but he says he only does research. Her father Judge Thatcher (Samuel S. Hinds) persuades Vollin to save her. Vollin operates, and a month later he plays the organ for her; but Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware) is going to marry Vollin's assistant Jerry Halden (Lester Matthews). Vollin and her father watch Jerry dance to the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. Judge Thatcher calls on Vollin to keep Jean from falling in love with him; but Vollin says he must send her to him. Edmond Bateman (Boris Karloff) goes to Vollin, who recognizes him. Edmond with a gun demands that Vollin change his face. Vollin says Edmond must first do torture and murder, as he has before. Edmond refuses. In a secret room Vollin operates on Edmond. When Vollin removes the bandage, half of Edmond's face is deformed. Edmond angrily shoots mirrors, and Vollin laughs hysterically. Vollin says that Edmond must do the torture before he will make him look good. Now Edmond agrees.
Judge Thatcher learns that Jean and Jerry went to Vollin's for the weekend. They gamble with other guests. Edmond tells Vollin that Judge Thatcher is there. Jean sees Edmond come into her room and screams. Vollin tells guests Edmond was tortured in war. Vollin says how Poe fell in love; but when he lost her, Poe thought of tortures. Jean apologizes to Edmond as guests go to their rooms. Judge Thatcher tells Jean and Jerry that Vollin is mad, and they should leave; but they just change rooms. Vollin makes Edmond leave their room and shows him his torture devices. Edmond traps Vollin below the descending pendulum knife but releases him. Jean sees Edmond coming into her room and runs to Jerry. They change rooms again. Col. Grant asks Vollin for a sleeping powder for his wife. Edmond grabs Judge Thatcher and takes him to Vollin, knocking out Jerry too. Vollin tortures Thatcher with the pendulum knife. Vollin lowers Jean's room. Jerry wakes others but can't get in the secret room. Vollin closes them in with shutters. Jean asks Edmond for help. The secret door opens and Jerry goes in, followed by Geoffrey. Vollin has a gun and locks Jean and Jerry in a room that is shrinking. When Edmond opens the door, Vollin shoots him; but Edmond closes the door on Vollin. Judge Thatcher is then rescued. Col. Grant and his wife are asleep, and Jean and Jerry drive away.
This stylized film portrays a sadistic doctor who uses his genius to try to manipulate others; but he fails miserably as he is caught in his own device.