The Raven (1963) seemed like a good choice because I was always fascinated with Edgar Allan Poe’s work and Vincent Price is one of my favorite actors, but my film verdict isn’t as tolerant as my love for Price.
Even though I’m usually up to a classic b-movies spoof, The Raven just didn’t cut it for and I truly thought it was a lousy spoof. Even for a spoof, it sucked and I hope Vincent’s ghost isn’t going to come haunting my scared ass just because I said The Raven sucked.
The Raven is b-rated farce about a mediocre wizard (Peter Lorre) turned into a raven by a powerful sorcerer named Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). The wizard turns to Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) to ask for help in bringing him back to his human form. Unaware of his powers and still bereaved of the death of his wife, Lenore, Craven takes pity on the poor whining bird and brews a shape-shifting potion. Dr. Bedlo (the former Raven) declares he’s after revenge and tells Dr. Craven he had seen Lenore in Scarabus’ castle and convinces him to come along and see her for himself. Accompanied by his beautiful daughter Estelle and Bedlo’s son Rexford (Jack Nicholson), Craven faces Dr. Scarabus in a duel of magic.
The Raven is not my first Roger Corman film and yet the first one making me go “ohhhh… no”. After a glorified trail of films including House of Usher (producer), Dementia 13 (producer), and The Masque of the Red Death (producer), which I loved, The Raven, I must say, was a bit of a blow which I didn’t bother watching all the way through (your forgiveness, Maddy). Choosing a cast so refined as Corman did is what saves the film from being a total disaster, starting with Vincent Price – the Horror king who always delivered an exquisite performance. The man embeds dread with humor oh so well, and his ghoulish voice is just… AHHH… everything. Watching him act is a delight for any Horror lover when even the shittiest role turns into his masterpiece. The man is a
living and breathing horror legend.
The rest of the cast includes A-listers Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and a then unfamiliar Jack Nicholson. Boris Karloff is one of the most iconic names in Horror cinema mostly known for his mythical characters, The Mummy, Frankenstein and my recent The Black Cat’s Hjalmar Poelzig. Peter Lorre’s Dr. Bedlo is a truly odd looking character much like Lorre himself, which probably explains why he starred in everything terror – Tales of Terror, The Comedy of Terrors, and The Man Who Knew Too Much (not terror). Mystery, Horror, and Oddity are written all over this guy’s face.
Jack Nicholson as Bedlo’s son Rexford, is a total goofball and very much dissimilar to the Jack we all know and love. But I guess we all need to start somewhere.
I love the ghastly setting of Craven’s house and Scarabus’ castle. Nothing does it for me more than old haunted rooms covered in spiderwebs and dim candle lights, morbid paintings of dead wives and in-house mausoleums. Corman is fantastic at setting a grim mood even if he slips in a few comic props.
After all of my ranting about The Raven, I still can’t decide if I was being way too harsh or simply honest. I’ll just remain ambivalent and on to the next one.
Thanks for reading.