Though there are many great wizard battles in cinema, only one stands out in my mind as embodying everything that wizarding represents. I'm speaking of the great, bizarre battle between the good and evil wizards (Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, respectively) in Roger Corman's 1963 classic The Raven. It's funny and packed with cheese (as you can see in this clip), but by the end it's actually become a seriously intense magic fight with blobs of energy swirling around and lives on the line.
I first watched this movie as a very little kid when it came on television. I had already heard of Edgar Allen Poe, who wrote the poem that this movie is barely based on at all, because people were forever pointing out that my name (Annalee) reminded them of another Poe poem, "Annabel Lee." (For the record: No, my name is not in any way related to the poem, so please stop calling me Annabel and Annabel Lee.) At the age of 6 or 7 when I saw this, what stuck in my mind was not the silliness — which is actually what strikes me most about it now — but the final moment where the two wizards are fighting with nothing more than their fingers and curtains of abstract light.
In my mind, the scene was much more pure and and disturbing than the one that was actually in the movie. For years, I remembered the two wizards floating in their ornate chairs, each issuing a single, bright beam of light from his finger, each holding and deflecting his enemy's wrath with nothing more than illumination. It was as if they had light sabers bursting from their fingertips.
Now I watch the the scene as truly awesome comic choreography (you can even see a young Jack Nicholson laughing there in the background!), with two of the twentieth century's great horror actors enjoying a chance to camp it up deliberately instead of accidentally. But there's an underlying darkness to it, something mean and mystical. This scene is more than a romp. Many horror movie afficionados think of Evil Dead as the movie that started the horror-satire genre. I think of The Raven.