When your movie begins with an actor with such a classic and iconic voice reciting Edgar Allen Poe’s the Raven, you know it is going to be good. Price is portraying Dr. Craven, a magician who is waxing poetic about his dead wife Lenore. He is interrupted by a raven tapping at his window. Turns out the bird is another magician, Dr. Bedlo (played by Peter Lorre!) who has been transmuted by yet another magician named Dr. Scarabus (played by yet another legend Boris Karloff!). Craven helps to restore Bedlo who insists on going back for round two with Scarabus. Craven wants nothing to do with this until Bedlo recognizes a portrait of his dead wife as the spitting image of a woman who was at Scarabus’ castle.
You following me so far? Before the pair can leave some mind control shenanigans happen that convince Craven his daughter won’t be safe at home, so she needs to come with them. Also, Bedlo’s son shows up to haul him back home. The boy, Rexford, is played by a young Jack Nicholson. This movie has a hell of a cast! The four of them head to Scarabus’ castle to sort things out. Without spoiling the fun I’ll just say it leads to more magic, a spellcaster’s duel, and a fun reveal about the foibles of marriage to a less than honest lady.
This is a great movie. I had forgotten that this was played less for horror and more for laughs. I know that Lorre was excellent at playing the drunken weasel as I’ve seen him do it many times before. But Price and Karloff have great comedic timing, especially when sharing the screen together. They are genuinely funny at times while playing straight man to Lorre’s shenanigans when that need arises. I found myself giggling and enjoying myself for the duration. Again, this isn’t my first watch, but it has been years. Still the comedy holds up and is still funny on repeated viewings. While inspired loosely by Poe’s writings the script was penned by the great Richard Matheson so the quality of the writing shouldn’t be a surprise.
I’ve already talked about the cast a bit. Seeing Price, Lorre, and Karloff interact on screen is like watching an all star game of horror icons. There are a few movies that combine such iconic talent but none do it better than The Raven. Nicholson doesn’t have much to do other than act as a love interest, but he is good. Leo Gordon has a small supporting role, but it’s a memorable one. We even get one of the queens of early British horror, Hazel Court, as Lenore. Top all of this off with expert direction from genre legend Roger Corman and it should come as no surprise that this turned out so well.
What else can I say? The sets are amazing and are about what I’d expect from these larger Corman produced and directed Poe “adaptations”. I use the quotations because they are only loosely based on his work most of the time. Also, the in camera tricks used to pull off the various spells might look a bit silly to a modern audience, but I loved them and for the time they were about as good as it got.
If you haven’t seen The Raven before or if like me, it had been a while you really need to spend some time watching it. Between cast, writer, and director it simply doesn’t get better. You have a lot of talent working at the top of their collective game.
© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer
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