The Raven (1963)
Release year: 1963
Director: Roger Corman
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson (screenplay), Edgar Allan Poe (inspired by his 1845 poem “The Raven”)
Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, Olive Sturgess, Jack Nicholson, Connie Wallace, William Baskin
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #225, week 41 2018
A raven visiting Dr. Craven (Price) late one night, turns out to be the magician Bedlo (Lorre) turned by the evil Dr. Scarabus (Karloff). Craven helps the unfortunate magician and when Bedlo tells him, he has seen Craven’s wife Leonore (Court) who passed away two years ago at Scarabus’s castle, the two men and their son (Nicholson) and daughter (Sturgess) go to the castle to investigate.
The Raven is the fifth installment in the so-called Corman-Poe cycle of eight films where all but one (The Haunted Palace, 1963) where based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. As the series moved forward, Corman attempted to change the formula by adding more and more humour into the movies, when he came to this, the fifth, the mixture between horror and comedy is more than evident, as The Raven is a horror comedy with emphasis on comedy. In true B-Movie style, the sets are obvious fake and the special effects more charming than convincing, but with a strong cast, the acting is superb. Price (The Ten Commandment, 1956) never looses a beat and Karloff (Frankenstein, 1931) adequate menacing while Lorre (Arsenic and Old Lace, 1944) easily switches along with his shifty character. The trio, who has worked together on other movies, seems at ease with each other and the horror genre is right up their alley. As a nice bonus, it is fun to watch a very young and handsome Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975), an actor who didn’t have his big break-through until he was in his forties. The Poe poem in the beginning gives the impression that you know where this story will go, but after a few lines from the Raven, it becomes clear that is not the fact. With its gothic scenery, excellent cast and tongue-in-cheek humour, The Raven is a movie to be mostly enjoyed by just letting it take you wherever it wants to go.
Jack Nicholson has stated that he liked everyone on set, except the raven, which pooped on everyone, especially him.
Peter Lorre did a lot of ad-libbing which contantly threw Boris Karloff off his carefully worked out preparation.
In casting his spells, Dr. Adolphus Bedlo (Peter Lorre) used several Latin phrases: Veni vidi vici: I came, I saw, I conquered. De mortuis nil nisi bonum: Do not speak ill of the dead. Cave canem: Beware of the dog. Si vis pacem parabellum: If you want peace, prepare for war. Ceterum censio Carthaginem esse delendam: Furthermore, I believe that Carthage must be destroyed.
If you feel like watching the movie yourself, you can get it here:
Picture copyright: Warner Home Video