THIS PAST SATURDAY'S MOVIE:Saturday July 14, 2012 - MOVIE - Melodrama "THE RAVEN" (1935) Lugosi shines as a Poe obsessed doctor...evil to the core. Karloff as a gangster mutilated into a murderous monster by Lugosi. A dark house, torture chambers...Karloff growling like the Frankenstein monster. Total fun. Suggested by Steve Shimming, Laurel, MD.
I caught this last night....it was, perhaps, my 15th viewing. I really like this little film. Clocks in at barely over an hour and is just packed with great scenes and lines. Lugosi is a retired surgeon with an unhealthy obsession for Edgar Allan Poe. Bela, deliciously delivers his lines as a man who's insanity is splitting through the seams. Most memorable line from Bela in this "I like to TORTURE!"
His character has some weird delusion that by torturing others, it releases him from his own personal tortures. Karloff, as a gangster on the run, comes to him in hopes of plastic surgery...to change his appearance. He doesn't realize that Bela is more violent than he could ever be. Lugosi changes his face all right. To a hideous distortion. He holds over Karloff the promise to fix the ugliness if he does things for him...like killing and torture. (Shades of Ygor and the monster in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN that was yet to come).
Sit back and enjoy this ride, if you've never taken it before. One rocking little Universal from 1935. At the time of this writing it's available on the BELA LUGOSI COLLECTION from Universal that also features MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, THE BLACK CAT, BLACK FRIDAY and THE INVISIBLE RAY. Good set.
-Ron Adams, Ligonier, PA
Karloff may get top billing, but this is Bela Lugosi's vehicle all
the way and to quote Danny Peary from his indispensable GUIDE FOR THE
FILM FANATIC (Danny, any chance of re-releasing and updating it?), he
"...has a field day as Dr. Vollin", the famed surgeon and Edgar Allen
Poe devotee with a cruel streak a mile long and a pretty cool sense of
humor. When lovely Irene Ware is in need of surgery and Bela comes to
her aid, he falls madly in love with her, but is put off by her father
(well played by Samuel S. Hinds) and when criminal Boris Karloff comes
around for plastic surgery to change his face, Bela uses his skills to
make Karloff so ugly (good makeup job by Jack Pierce) that in order to
look like himself again, he will aid Lugosi in just about any
nefarious scheme that Bela can cook up, namely torture and murder.
As said, Bela shines in this with some great lines and probably
unintentional humor (especially when Karloff asks him after the
surgery if he looks different -the look on Bela's face is priceless
when he answers) and is practically chewing the scenery enough for
three hams by the end.
The rest of the supporting cast, save Ian
Wolfe, is, alas, extremely annoying and you wish the movie was a
little longer so Bela could put them in his torture devices inspired
by Poe -why Irene Ware would choose Lester Matthews over Bela is a
mystery, even if he is a little eccentric. Absolutely one of my
favorites -Bela looks great in here, handsome and refined and as close
to dominating Karloff as he ever did in their films together.
direction by Lewis Friedlander (who would direct Bela in RETURN OF THE
VAMPIRE in 1944 as Lew Landers), a funny yet perverse script by David
Boehm (which no doubt helped in THE RAVEN's ban from England) and it
looks as though the FRANKENSTEIN steps are used again!
"Poe you are avenged!" Never mind that the line makes little if any sense,
Lugosi delivers it with such wonderfully evil, manic craziness it's always
a blast to see. I'll admit to being a big fan of the Universal B pictures
like Black Cat, Invisible Ray and this one, The Raven. Whatever they lack
in iconic images they make up for in fast paced story telling and over the
Why exactly Lugosi is second billed to Karloff is a mystery,
perhaps that's part of what fueled Bela's performance. The plots of these
vehicles are pretty standard, crazy maniac wants girl while wimpy
boyfriend must rescue her.
What makes this film so much fun (for me at
least) is the over the top wild performance by Lugosi. Every line is
dripping with evil intent and his gleeful role as torturer is a hoot.
Watching this I thought about "The Pit and the Pendulum," a film I'd
suggest for another Bash Sync-Up where Vincent Price channels a bit of the
Lugosi insanity. Of course Price's take is a bit more measured and it
makes a bit more sense within the context of the story, but still I find
myself watching this film often and enjoying Lugosi's wild ride as the mad
-Kevin Slick Louisville, CO
Having a blast with the Raven, Karloff and Lugosi in top form, evil incarnate, and having fun being it! Fast moving, some fun comedy relief, cool pendulum. Bela is nuts!!! Its the room where the walls come together. Yes, I like to torture! Creeepy Classic!
Quieny ¨El Santitito"
One of my favorite Lugosi/Karloff pairings. Like you, Ron, I have seen this one numerous times. In fact, it was actually the first horror film I ever saw. Even before the two actors' career defining turns as Dracula and Frankenstein. I never forgot the look of Karloff's makeup after Lugosi's mad surgeon got through with him! A definite Universal horror classic and a must see for Karloff and Lugosi fans. It's just too bad Lugosi didn't get top billed because he steals the show!
Ron and Co.:
This film is generally not a favorite among the Karloffians, and as a result, Bela Lugosi's performance is almost always picked on by them as being tremendously "over-the-top" or that Louis Friedlander's direction is so poor that no one gives a "good" performance in the film. The late Richard Valley told me he thought the higlight of the movie was when Karloff caught Lugosi in the Poe inspired torture device and lisped "Gotcha!" at him. When actor Ian Wolfe first met Boris on the set, he asked him wihere he could find the toilet. Karloff was apparently fed up with Universal at the time and yelled, "This whole studio is a toilet!"
It's considered Friedlander's first feature film - I'd have to check that for sure, but there is no question that the film plays like a well-edited feature version of a movie serial. The director's work on serials for Universal was pretty impressive really - I like THE VANISHING SHADOW (which was later reworked - along with plot elements from THE INVISIBLE RAY - into THE PHANTOM CREEPS). The editing is so crisp and lightning fast that I wish that Friedlander (who changed his name to "Lew Landers" later) had looked to his earlier projects for inspiration when he directed Lugosi again for THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE in 1944.
I think Friedlander knew exactly what he was doing, and I feel the same way about Lugosi's performance in THE RAVEN. Bela plays "Dr. Richard Vollin" as a mentally unstable man who KNOWS he's on the verge of losing his sanity. The woman whose life he saves - Jean Thatcher - is clearly a "tease" and she pushes the surgeon right over the edge of reason. When Dr. Vollin finally loses it, Bela plays him as if he were a human Coke bottle who has been shaken up so much that the cap pops off and the contents explode all over. How would you - if you were an actor - play such a character?
The sly dialogue is so fast and good that I think it goes over people's heads. When Judge Thatcher is tied to the pendulum torture device he says, "What's that knife doing?" and Vollin answers: "Descending." Bela's character reminds me so much of Vincent Price's anti-hero in THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1958) that I think THE RAVEN would make a great "double feature" with it.
THE BLACK CAT (1934) is a classic, no doubt about that, but I think THE RAVEN comes a lot closer to a homage to Edgar Alan Poe than the more respected earlier film. THE RAVEN (1935) is a clasic in its own right and fits well into the trio of Karloff-Lugosi films the team made in the middle 1930s!
- "Herr Kohlzig" Leonard Kohl, Chicago, IL
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