The Raven (1935)

Today we have a film, under an hour in runtime, that brings the two definitive legends of Universal Horror together, not for the first or last time. It’s Lew Landers’ The Raven, adapted from the story by Edgar Allan Poe.

This will sadly be the last 1930’s Horror film of this journey…there are many more notable ones which I’ll mention at the end of this post and may very well one day discuss them too. I have yet to see any of the ones I’ll mention though so it would’ve been impossible to include them here…I bought this film very recently not only for the premise, which itself is great, but mainly due to it being considered one of the greater films with the two legendary actors in leading roles…to see them both together on screen is exhilarating.

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Lugosi and The Raven…the symbol of death

The film has a very simple narrative; Dr. Vollin (Bela Lugosi), a man obsessed with Poe, comes out of retirement to save the life of Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware). He becomes infatuated with her and goes slightly insane when he is denied of her, both by her father and her fianc√© whom he then invites to his house and imprisons and tortures them inside of his Poe inspired dungeon. Edmond Bateman (Karloff), a highly wanted criminal seeks out Vollin and requests of him that he changes his face so he can live a life of peace…Vollin instead turns Bateman into a hideous monster whom he manipulates to act as his servant throughout the process of capturing his targets by assuring that he will go ahead with Bateman’s original request when it is all over.

Where this film really shines is with its performances from the two greats…Lugosi is delightfully insane and charming as Vollin and Karloff, like he does so well, is delightfully sympathetic as Bateman. The makeup work done on Karloff again deserves a shoutout. Lugosi is truly captivating in this film, rather unpredictable and you can’t take your eyes off him. The mystery that surrounds his characters always adds to the chilling atmosphere that is present in so many of his films. The atmosphere in this is consistent and it’s exactly what you want from the film, especially considering it’s Poe adapted. It adds to the enjoyability greatly.

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Jerry (Lester Matthews), Jean and Judge Thatcher in Vollin’s ‘residence’

Theres honestly nothing I didn’t like about this film, yes the direction and the editing may not be Oscar-worthy but for a genre film and what was essentially a vehicle for the two great actors, it’s great. It’s clear that the two really enjoyed the work they did on 30’s horror films for Universal and their enjoyability of working definitely enhances my enjoyability of viewing.

If you love the two of them, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this one.

A big mention goes out to the torture dungeon also…that place is genuinely frightening…yet enthralling and the insanity Lugosi portrays when he has Judge Thatcher (Jean’s father – Samuel S. Hinds) strapped down facing a descending pendulum blade (here’s where the Poe comes in) is incredible, not to mention, quotable.

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Lugosi as Vollin torturing Judge Thatcher on ‘The Pendulum’

The 1930’s truly is one of the defining decades of Horror, if not the most and it offered many, many more notable films: The Invisible Man (1933), The Old Dark House (1932), The Black Cat (1934), Son of Frankenstein (1939), ¬†Mad Love (1935) plus others.

As previously said, these are all films I desire to see, but have yet to do so…tomorrow we move into the 1940’s and sadly, will not stay there more than a day. The 1940’s saw Horror films become parodies and silly sequels to originally good movies. Some of which, I’m lead to believe were quite good, ‘Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein’ for example. But I have only ever seen one Horror from the 40’s and that’s not to say I don’t want to see more.

It stars the son of a silent horror legend and is the only one of the ‘big 4’ monsters we haven’t discussed yet…I’m sure you can figure it out!!

Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Journey Continues Tomorrow

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