The Horrorathon – The Raven (1963)

maddy loves her classic films has announced her Horrorathon a month ago (I’m guessing for Halloween) and I thought I’d pick a Vincent Price film I haven’t seen yet for the occasion.

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.

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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.

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Vincent

Vincent 1982, Tim Burton

this is a story about a young boy named Vincent. he tends to keep to himself and daydreams of becoming Vincent Price, a mad and tormented scientist. Vincent likes to experiment on his dog, Abercrombie. Vincent’s mother insists he would go outside and play, explaining to her son that he is just a little boy and not Vincent Price.
i’m a huge fan of Tim Burton. everything he touches simply turns into dark gold. my first and lifelong love is Beetlejuice. but that is another post. Mr. Price himself is one of my cinematic heroes. he is an idol and inspiration to Tim Burton, and is also narrating the film with his undertone murmuring voice. i love watching this short animation. Vincent’s delusions are taking over when he loses grasp of reality from time to time. quoting from Edgar Ellen Poe’s “The Raven”, he believes he shares that tortured soul with the dead poet. i love the opening and ending music theme, “The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid”. the version playing in the film is sweet and melancholy. i feel for Vincent. i grew up carrying a highly imaginative mind of my own. surrounding myself with odd films and strange television characters. macabre daydreams are what made me want to do costume design in the first place. i never considered myself one of the ordinary. a happy kid, but slightly unusual. it brought me a lot in life and shaped the person i am today.

a little treat:

Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven

[First published in 1845]

horizontal space Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
This it is, and nothing more,’Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there, and nothing more.Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.’

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of “Never-nevermore.”‘

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting –
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!