The Raven Reviews
The set pieces are fun, Lugosi is evil as hell and it's interesting to see Karloff as the criminal trying to turn his life around only to be screwed over by the cruel surgeon.
Give it a look.
This is where Boris Karloff enters the picture. He plays a murderer named Edmund Bateman that's escaped from prison. He goes to Vollin and asks him to change his face so he can hide from the police. But Vollin wants help exacting his revenge schemes, so instead of helping Bateman, he ruins half of his face, and only promises to fix him if he assists him.
That's the basic gist of the movie. There's honestly not a great deal to talk about as far as the story, partly because of its runtime; it's only 61 minutes long. But even though it's short, there's always something pivotal happening. Throughout the first part of the movie, we watch as Vollin genuinely seems to fall in love with the dancer Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware) after he saves her life. She's smitten and grateful, but her father Judge (Samuel S. Hinds) sees nothing but trouble in this. I don't disagree with him. We've seen that Vollin has been a tad edgy since we first see him, obsessed with Poe to the point of having a whole room filled with torture devices inspired by his stories, such as a pit, a pendulum with a scythe and a shrinking room. Remember that.
Most of the other characters aren't really worth mentioning. Lugosi is at the center of the story, and the best part is watching just how maniacal he gets. It's not like "Dracula" where he's just pure evil; there's more realism in his performance because he's just someone who can't deal with what's happened. He feels betrayed, and this is the only way he feels justice can be served. And during the scenes where he's torturing the other characters, it's just great to see how much he enjoys it. He holds nothing back in how he acts; when he makes a big speech or laughs at his victims, we believe it.
Now, the movie is almost just worth it because of the novelty of having both Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi; it wasn't the first or last time this happened. They united for another Poe film, 1934's "The Black Cat," and in the 1939 film "Son of Frankenstein." They're usually talked about as rivals; I'm not sure if they were, or if they were actually friends. But very often Karloff got top-billing; however, he doesn't have nearly as much to do in "The Raven," but he makes his scenes work really well. It's interesting that even though he's a convicted killer, we don't quite see him as an evil guy. He's just caught up in a desperate situation, and he feels like there's nothing he can do but help Vollin; and in the end, he's able to see how it isn't worth it. I also like how both Karloff and Lugosi use their best trademarks. Lugosi has the facial expressions that he's well known for, and there are instances were Karloff growls just like the Frankenstein monster.
I wouldn't quite go so far as call this movie a classic. Like I said, most of the supporting characters are relatively forgettable and underdeveloped, and yeah, it's only mildly inspired by the Poe story rather than being a real adaptation. But regardless, it's a great story about revenge, obsession and betrayal, and it's one of Karloff and Lugosi's finest collaborations.
Through out the movie characters recite lines from various Poe stories and poems including The Raven and Pit & The Pendulum. As for the fright factor the movie moderately provides none; Bela's performance is creepy, while Karloff's is hilarious. Karloff's make-up is one of the funniest things I have ever seen in an old horror movie.
Some of the performances are really hard to watch and the premise makes me cringe. I enjoyed this movie but I really wouldn't recomend it unless you are a die hard Lugosi or Karloff fan. The coolest thing about this movie would have to be the doctor's torture room; He devised a pretty incredible torture chamber with some awesome devices like a shrinking room.
I am going to go ahead and give this movie a 5 out of 10. I think it was only made for the soul purpose of getting Karloff and Lugosi back into another film as they are both the horror movie icons of this time period. All in all it seemed like it was a rushed affair.
"Poe you are avenged!" or are you?
Bela Lugosi didn't attend the premier
Filmed in Los Angeles
Universal suggested that cinema owners write letters to high schools and colleges, so their teachers would suggest the film to students.