Title: The Raven
Release Date: January 25, 1963
Plot Summary: Bringing three horror icons together, this retelling of Poe’s The Raven (with a tongue in cheek tone) sees Dr. Craven (Vincent Price) dragged out of retirement to help a cowardly magician named Bedlo (Peter Lorre) after he’s turned into a raven by Dr. Skarabus (Boris Karloff). Pure glorious cheese then occurs.
Review: Bringing three titans of horror into one film, this Rodger Corman production is wonderfully dated (you can tell this is from the 60s), but also worth a watch. Vincent Price should be well known to any horror fan for his great performance, no matter the script. This one, much like last weeks film, takes a literary classic and takes it in a somewhat new direction. Yes, those of you who had a high school literature class will recognize this as taking inspiration from Poe’s The Raven ( albeit very loosely).
Ah yes, the glory that is Vincent Price, not only can he take a silly script and run with it, but he gives every role his all. Here, he plays a somewhat reluctant magician who find himself embroiled in Dr. Bedlo’s mess. Peter Lorre as Bedlo is ridiculously fun and angry, especially when interacting with Jack Nicholson ( yes, that Jack Nicholson). Rumor has it this was caused by the actors and not the roles, but its still fun to see Nicholson getting sassed by Lorre.
The settings are gloriously cheesy and beautiful at the same time. Something about old, gothic castles just makes me very happy. The costuming is also lovely and ornate, which makes this film a visual treat. Less so are the magic effects, which I can’t really blame this film for. It was 1963, if you wanted magic effects, they were gonna be hand drawn or practical effects. Just look at this, it is wonderfully nutty and Vincent Price is enjoying himself far too much.
Maybe its the facial expressions Karloff is pulling ( he does this all throughout the film), maybe its Price having a blast, but I can’t help but laugh at this scene. Two men in silly looking robes wiggling their fingers at each other while lights play on the screen shouldn’t be this entertaining. If you couldn’t tell from this review so far, the star power of this film makes it worth watching. Boris Karloff plays the main villain of this film, and maybe due to his age ( he was in his 70s), he sadly doesn’t do much. Not that what we get is bad ( his portrayal of Scarabus is unapologetically evil), as even his grump face is worth seeing .
Most of the characters here, besides the daughter, are memorable, as Lenore (Hazel Court) is played as a shameless, power hungry wench who is only with Scarabus for his wealth. She’s a horrible person, but plays it in such a way that you can’t help but like her character. When she gets told to piss off at the end, I can’t help but chuckle. Not that Bedlo gets off easy either, as he gets stuck in raven form by the end of it, with Craven unwilling to help him.
Highlights: Need I remind you that this happens?
Everyone here is a great actor, and well worth watching, just to see how they play off of each other.
Recommendations: Find some way to watch this one. The actors are great, the script is silly, and Price has an absolute blast. The man could read a dictionary and make it amusing. If a man talking to a snarky bird sounds amusing to you, give it a shot.
Next week, I’ll be tackling another in this series, as Corman produced eight of these things. In fact, expect me to cover all of them in a series I’ve decided to call Corman’s Poe-A-Thon.