The Raven (1963)

This movie is loosely based around the famous Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name. However, I don’t think this is what the great literary genius had in mind when he originally wrote it; as Corman has turned the great Gothic poem into an absurd adventure styled comedy! Well, Edgar Allen Poe may be turning in his grave; but the rest of us get to have fun as we see horror gods Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, not to mention Jack Nicholson ham it up in style as the weird and wonderful cast of this absurd story of wizards and hocus pocus. Vincent Price is Dr. Erasmus Craven, and the film starts out with a reading of the famous Poe poem by the one and only Mr Price, and we’re in familiar Corman-Poe territory. However, things take a turn in a totally different direction when, nearly napping, suddenly there comes a tapping, as someone gently rapping, rapping at Craven’s chamber door. ‘Tis a raven…or rather, Dr Bedlo (Peter Lorre), a fellow magician that has been turned into a raven by the rather nasty Dr Scarabus (Boris Karloff). After turning Bedlo back into a man, Craven is convinced by Bedlo, after hearing Scarabus has his beloved Lenore, to accompany him to his castle. And that is where the fun starts.

Peter Lorre and Vincent Price make a delicious comedy pairing; their two unique personalities blend together brilliantly and it’s great to see these two legends on screen together. As mentioned, these two are joined by fellow legend; Boris Karloff. Karloff is a vastly underrated actor that has played lots of important characters and turned his hand to many different aspects of horror; comedy being one that he does well at also. Like the rest of the cast, he delivers his one-liners with the utmost skill and has many fine comedy moments. Not all of the jokes in the film work, but some parts of the film are laugh-out loud funny. Seeing Jack Nicholson in a film like this is rather bizarre when you consider what he has gone on to achieve, but his presence serves in giving it even more cult appeal. Although if you’d heard someone say that he would go on to achieve these things after only seeing him here, you’d probably think whoever told you was having a laugh…

Whether or not Corman should have turned ‘The Raven’ into a comedy is debatable. On one hand, I love the film, but I’m not sure if a serious version better would have been better. Still, the debate is irrelevant because he did and this is the result. The film is loyal to the poem in some ways (including the lovely wrap up), but basically; this is completely different. But pay the similarities and differences no mind, as ‘enjoy!’ is my advice.