The Raven - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Raven Reviews

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August 16, 2017
After watching the 1931 version of Dracula I became interested in watching other horror films from around that era and I am glad I decided to explore as this film is even better than Dracula. Not only is it better production wise but the cast is also better (with Béla Lugosi coming across as even more menacing than he did with his performance in Dracula), the themes that are dealt with are more wide ranging and grounded (torture, disfigurement and grisly revenge being the three main themes) and the atmosphere generated by its gothic source material as well as the torture devices used are entertaining.
½ October 19, 2016
I think there's a good chance he might kill us in our sleep! meh... let's get to bed. The story is haphazard. There is an undeniable diabolical nature to all this. Slightly untoward content. The passion behind it is so strong! Great performances from all. It's an engaging story... I'm just not sure what it is. The ending is good up until the final scene. No idea what the point of that was. But, whatever. Still a thumbs up.

If a man looks ugly, he does ugly things. Something profound, indeed.
October 16, 2016
One of Lugosi's greatest roles.
August 9, 2015
Lugosi is resplendent in his crisp formal attire as he spouts melodramatic dialogue, while Karloff skulks around trying to terrify the cowering guests with his crumpled countenance. (The makeup is quite good, except for a very fake-looking eyeballâ?¦ the effect would have been better had they just used a swollen-shut eyelid.)

Karloff would later go on the star in another version of Poeâ??s The Raven (1963), directed by Roger Corman and again not following the authorâ??s original storyline.
January 13, 2015
Short by today's standards yet fast-paced, both Lugosi and Karloff combine to bring us a tale laced with subtle references, brilliant and believable acting, and a well-made movie overall despite a questionable plot that can be complex to pay attention to. The best Raven movie by a squeaker against the Corman version, while the best by a mile compared to the 2012 remake.
January 4, 2015
Inventive, macabre and delightful grandaddy of the "torture porn" horror film. Features thick, gothic cinematography and a nasty-good dual performance by Karloff and Lugosi.
½ November 9, 2014
"The Raven" is one of the most recognizable works Edgar Allen Poe ever wrote. But as it is a poem, it doesn't really lend itself to being adapted. Despite has been adapted many times over the years. This isn't so much an adaptation as much as it deals with a man (Lugosi) who is obsessed with Poe and the poem and is a Mad Surgeon with a torture chamber as well. Karloff also appears as a murderer on the run, whom Lugosi disfigures so he will help him torture folks. It was the third and last Universal horror film based on the works of Poe, and it was not well received at the time for its really dark themes...which are pretty tame by today's horror standards. I think the film is still pretty good, it isn't the best Universal had to offer in their horror movie prime, but it isn't the worst either, it at least has the creepy feel you want on an October night.
July 31, 2014
The Raven is a bit of a downgrade from The Black Cat. Lugosi plays a looney toon and Karloff is seemingly typecast. Not to mention the constant talk of Poe is grinding on the nerves. But you should still be highly entertained by a Poe-worthy story, good music and a short runtime.
June 12, 2014
Extremely old fashioned and silly. The deathtraps at the end are really cool - very cliffhanger serial-like. It's a nice bit of 1930s horror nostalgia.
March 18, 2014
1931's Frankenstein And 1931's Dracula Are Two Of My Favorite Films.
½ February 19, 2014
I would be remiss if I didn't include at least one film based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. However, "based on" is a strong way to describe this movie; the story has pretty much nothing to do with Poe's story. In this film, Béla Lugosi plays a surgeon named Dr. Vollin obsessed with the works of Poe; he saves a young woman's life and falls in love with her. She's engaged, however, and her father tells him to stay away. Driven mad by hopeless longing, he plots his revenge against the family.

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.
September 2, 2013
A well-acted melodrama/horror. The raven features two of horror's all time greats - Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. How can you not appreciate the actors who play Dracula and Frankenstein side by side? Fans of Poe's work will especially enjoy this one.
½ August 26, 2013
Do I have to say that there's not much Poe here?

Okay, he's name-checked more than once. The villainous Dr Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi) claims to be an enormous fan, a few quotes are dropped in here and there, and there's one weird dance number apparently inspired by the eponymous poem. But it's all just lip service really, a borderline-cynical way of getting a recognisable horror 'brand' into the title of your movie. Universal pulled a similar trick with the previous year's 'The Black Cat' (which also starred Lugosi and Boris Karloff) but Poe is less well-served here, I think. Yes, it's true that 'The Black Cat' draws practically nothing from its ostensible source, but at least that film does have an oppressive atmosphere which is fairly evocative of the tone of Poe's writing. 'The Raven', on the other hand, owes more to Gaston Leroux than Poe, peopled as it is by an insane and obsessed stalker with a plethora of death-traps, architectural tricks and even a giant pipe organ at his disposal. It's the 'Phantom of the Opera' meets 'Dr Kildare'. On paper, he sounds as derivative as villains come.

But let's not forget that Vollin is being played by Bela Lugosi, an actor so committed to his florid, over-the-top acting choices that he seems incapable of committing a single dull moment to celluloid. Vollin may be dull in concept, but in Lugosi's hands he pops and crackles with diabolical electricity. "I'm the sanest man alive!" he screams while wearing possibly the most insane face ever caught on camera - not only is Vollin completely batshit, but by the end of this barnstorming slice of grand guignol you'll be convinced that Lugosi is too. Suffice to say, 'The Raven' is Lugosi's show all the way, with all the good and bad that this entails.

Once again he's been teamed with Boris Karloff, and once again Karloff does his damndest to turn in a real performance in the face of Lugosi's 'enthusiasm'. His character, Edmond Bateman, appears to have been devised specifically to evoke memories of the actor's star-making turn in 'Frankenstein'; Bateman is a shambling and dangerous mute, but in Karloff's hands he is also sympathetic and ultimately a reasonably affecting anti-hero. Karloff is absolutely gold as usual, managing to do something with an extremely generic part (his reaction upon awaking in Vollin's subterranean surgery is genuinely good stuff) and, if nothing else, he deserves massive kudos for not being drawn into whatever pantomime Lugosi thinks he's acting in.

The film is enthusiastic almost to a fault, throwing a lot of lurid stuff at the screen, including a collection of torture-machines that seem like an attempt to one-up the finale of 'The Black Cat'; I recall that Kevin Brownlow's documentary 'Universal Horror' pin-pointed this film as one of the final straws for Hollywood's moral watchdogs who successfully campaigned to neuter the studio's horror output for the rest of the 1930's. It's fun while it lasts, though, and there's a manic glee to the ghastly parade. Its all well-mounted by 'Louis Friedlander' (aka the ludicrously prolific journeyman Lew Landers); his shots of the slowly descending pendulum are quite startling (and surely 'The Pit and the Pendulum' would surely have been a better title for this?).

But 'The Raven' is lacking the mood and class of 'The Black Cat'; in the end it's grand finale comes off more like a cliffhanger serial than a horror film. Lugosi fans will love it, and his final scenes achieve the kind of operatic majesty that can only be achieved by a born ham in full, furious flow. But if you're not a big fan of black-and-white horror, you may wish to approach a tad cautiously.
½ February 9, 2013
Bela arguably at his craziest, as an obsessive connoseur of Poe and his tortures. Karloff makes his standard appearance and the climax is hair-raising, if unnecessarilly capped off. A good little horror gem, nonetheless.
February 9, 2013
This one was much better than the 2012 remake
January 16, 2013
A great classic horror which was highly controversial at the time of its release due to its dealings with elements such as sexual obsession and bodily deformities. Bela Lugosi is quite haunting as the mad doctor who has a genuine love for torturing people, while the whole final sequence is quite suspenseful.
½ November 13, 2012
Although Karloff was top billed, it was Lugosi who dominated this picture. Watching Lugosi playing unhinged is always a delight!
August 28, 2012
good B movie thriller
June 3, 2012
Vintage Universal Horror Karloff and Lugosi!!!!!
May 29, 2012
Lugosi and Karloff are both amazing in this. Karloff is a sympathetic character, while Lugosi is just simply a madman. With the title of the film, and being based on Edgar Allan Poe's works, the dialogue was always going to be brilliant, and Lugosi executes the famous words from the author flawlessly. Really enjoyed this one, you can't go wrong with Lugosi & Karloff, never.
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