Sunday, February 27, 2011

#205. The Raven (1935)

DVD Synopsis: Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story, this horror masterpiece features Bela Lugosi as Dr. Vollin, who has a fetish for instruments of torture. After saving the life of a beautiful young girl, the doctor becomes infatuated with her. When he teams with an escaped killer (Boris Karloff) who needs a new identity, the doctor gets more than he bargained for. Revenge, obsession, and manipulation blend together in this wicked Lugosi classic.










In 1934, Universal Studios teamed two of its hottest stars, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, in The Black Cat, a film “inspired” by one of Edgar Allan Poe's most renowned short stories. Despite the controversy stirred up by that film (it was banned in many areas), The Black Cat was a box-office smash, and went on to be the studio's biggest money-maker of the year. So, it was only a matter of time before audiences would once again be treated to a pairing of these two renowned thespians of horror. 

Which brings us to The Raven

When Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware), the daughter of a wealthy Judge (Samuel S. Hinds), is badly injured in a car crash, a plea for help goes out to retired surgeon, Dr. Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi). Vollin, a self-proclaimed Edgar Allan Poe aficionado, is at first reluctant to come out of retirement, but eventually does agree to operate. Not only does Vollin save Jean, he falls madly in love with her in the process.  Vollin becomes obsessed with possessing Jean, even though she's engaged to be married to Dr. Jerry Halden (Lester Matthews), and makes plans to kidnap the girl and keep her by his side forever. To this end, he enlists the help of Edmond Bateman (Boris Karloff), an escaped prisoner whose come to the doctor seeking plastic surgery to alter his face. Though he initially refuses to help the good doctor in his evil scheme, Vollin ensures Bateman's assistance by turning the poor man into a deformed monster, promising to restore his looks once Jean is finally his prisoner. 

Lugosi is clearly the star of The Raven, and he is given one hell of an introductory scene. When we first meet Vollin, he's sitting behind a desk, a large shadow of a Raven filling the wall next to him.  As the camera pulls back to reveal the entire room, Vollin is reciting lines from Poe's The Raven for a visitor, and let me tell you, you've not heard Poe until you've heard him recited by Bela Lugosi! As The Raven progresses, we come to learn that Vollin is both a gifted surgeon and an obsessed madman, one who will stop at nothing to possess what he desires. Vollin is the film's heavy, and Lugosi pulls out all the stops in ensuring we despise his character completely. It's yet another fine performance by the always flamboyant actor. 

As Bateman, Karloff is as much a victim of the good doctor as he is a patient. Seeking only to have his face altered, Vollin instead turns Bateman into a hideous creature (the film's best scene is when Bateman realizes what Vollin has done, and starts shooting out the mirrors in disgust). The part of Bateman resembles yet another Karloff role, that of the monster in 1931's Frankenstein. Like the creature in that film, Bateman is a man who simply wanted to fit in, yet his very presence is terrifying to all who encounter him. Throughout The Raven, we both sympathize with Bateman's plight and pity him his sad existence. 

There are a few scenes in The Raven that simply don't work. In particular, there's a sequence in which Jean, who is a professional dancer, performs a dance number as a fellow actor recites lines from Poe's The Raven. Meant as a tribute to the doctor who saved her life, I instead found the whole thing silly, almost to the point of being laughable. Such moments aside, however, The Raven is yet another fine entry in Universal's stable of horror films, as well as a top-notch vehicle for two of the genre's most time-honored performers.


Please leave a comment below... I'd love to hear from you









34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Listening now Docter too the new show. I am so happy to see the movies reviewed. I put off my buying prowess to hear what everyone thought of the new blue rays. Hopefully they come in good cause I am itching for some good horror blue rays.

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

The good news is, you'll find a few entertaining movies among those discussed in this show, ones that are certainly worth picking up.

If you do buy them based on our recommendations, please be sure to come back after you watch them, and let us know what you thought.

Thanks again for listening, and have a great day.

Anonymous said...

fresh pick sir you do not have to leave the 30-s on the segment i like them

Dave Becker said...

Hello, and thanks for the comment.

I love the films of the 30's as well, and could probably dedicate my segment to them in it's entirety from here on out. However, I do have a pretty lengthy list of horror films from the 40's through to the late 60's that I really want to get to as well.

As I said in the show, it's only a temporary "goodbye" to the 30's...I'll be back there at some point down the road!

Thanks again for stopping by the site, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Shock,

#7 was FUN!!!!!

The guest was a real asset this week. Also liked the change of pace to the new horror movies on this show. Let Bill Chetie know he did well. I was really curious on the remake of I spit on your grave, nice discussion. I will be picking up the Traveler based on yours and Bill Cheties rating.

One final thing, you never did rate the Raven from 1 to 10, what would you give it?

John Hallman

Dave Becker said...

John: Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the comment.

I'm glad you enjoyed the episode, and I agree with you on Paul; he did a great job filling in for Lady Phantom. I'll pass your comments on to Billchete (and yes, it was a very good selection of films). The I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake is one to check out, and I did enjoy THE TRAVELER (while I didn't rank it as a 'buy', I did find it a well-made film with only 1 or 2 minor issues).

It's funny you mention the rating from 1-10 for my pick. I noticed that the other hosts do assign a rating to the picks made in their individual segments, but I personally didn't see any point in it, seeing as it was a movie I was recommending anyway.

That said, I suppose I really should try to keep things on an even grounding, so going forward, I will start to assign ratings to my classic picks.

My rating on THE RAVEN would be 8.5 (the dance scene kept it from a 9), and I would recommend a 'buy' for it.

Thanks again, John, for the comment, and thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Shock,

That was a quick reply, thank you so much and for the rating of 8.5. I didn't mean to imply for you to change your segment, was just curious on this one how high you would rate it.

I see the "buy" link here on your blog is a collection as you mentioned on the podcast. Planet Macabre has a "buy" link overseas and while I do have a region-free DVD player I would rather purchase it from the U.S. Do you happen to have another link for just the movie?

John Hallman

Dave Becker said...

John: Not to worry: I've been contemplating if I should add a rating to my segment, especially since the other hosts are doing so. Hearing from fans like yourself only makes the decision to change an easy one. I thank you for the question.

I've just done a search on Amazon, and the only copy I could come up with for THE RAVEN other than the Lugosi collection is a VHS copy of the film. While I can attest to the fact that the Lugosi Collection is a great set to own, I do understand that it's over-$20 price tag can make the decision to purchase it a difficult one.

I even tried to check and see if the film is available to watch on YouTube (sometimes, these older films can be watched in their entirety on that site), but it looks as if it's not available there, either.

If you're interested in the VHS copy of the film, here's the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Raven-VHS-Boris-Karloff/dp/6302526140/ref=sr_1_8?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1298813752&sr=1-8

I was also able to find a cheaper price on the Lugosi set, over at Go Hastings. Here, it's listed as only $18.27 plus shipping. That link is:

http://www.gohastings.com/product/MOVIE/The-Bela-Lugosi-Collection/sku/188676806.uts

Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Going forward, I'll have to take availability into account when selecting my classic recommendations (but trust me, THE RAVEN is a good one!).

Thanks again for the comment.

Anonymous said...

you guys make my work day go by so quick! i listened twice to the latest podcast so I wouldnt miss any recomendations.

Dave Becker said...

Hello, and thanks for the comment.

Thanks also for listening to Planet Macabre...I'm glad we could do our part to make work go quickly for you! We certainly appreciate the kind words (and thanks for listening twice!).

Anonymous said...

I Sincerely ADMIRE all of the hosts on Planet Macabre. The level of clarity on the summaries and discussions are excellent while giving the audience a guideline on what is worth a purchasing, rental, stream or avoidance.

I hope your podcast is around a long time, I don't know where I would turn for my horror movies without it.

Dolan

Dave Becker said...

Golan: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

I certainly appreciate the kind words, as I'm sure all the hosts do. We're now 7 episodes into Planet Macabre's run, and the response has been tremendous. It really makes all the work put into the show worthwhile to know there are fans such as yourself out there.

Thanks so much for listening (and like you, I hope Planet Macabre is around for a long, long time. I know I'll be there if it is!).

Anonymous said...

I love Poe's novels, I will certainly be checking this one out. The "Chills of Yesteryear" is always interesting along with "Indy Assault" and "Paranormal Playground" which I must admit I have been craving for..Roberta

Dave Becker said...

Roberta: Thanks for stopping by!

I'm glad you enjoy the Chills of Yesteryear segment (and you're long wait for the next "Paranormal Playground" may be coming to an end...Lady Phantom is due back next show!).

Thanks again for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

first time visit from the planet cast on horror movies. been wanting to check out the website here for some time now, finally remembered.

i hope this reaches dr shock tell him i like the classic horror movies.

addison
quebec, canada

Dave Becker said...

Addison: Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the comment.

This is Dr. Shock, and I'm glad you enjoy the horror classics I've been selecting. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep that streak alive on future shows.

Thanks again for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Another B&W horror classic I forgot about Shock. Keep the nostalgia feel of the classics going strong!

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

I'll do my best to keep them coming, and I appreciate the kind words.

Anonymous said...

this one should get a colorized version mister shock: i know they do this for some movies wonder if any of these old horror movies come around to colorization.

a bunch more dvd's to buy from episode 7 the new hodge podge pod cast. great stuff.

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

Personally, I'm not a fan of colorization...I prefer that movies remain in their original scheme. Especially when it comes to these old Universal horror films, i feel the black and white really adds to the overall atmosphere. That said, if colorization will gain an audience that otherwise would have never bothered with the film, then I suppose it serves a purpose.

I'm glad you enjoyed the episode, and I agree...there were some fine films discussed. I hope you enjoy them, and when you do get a chance to see them, please stop back to let us know what you think.

Thanks again for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Excellent episode and pick Sir Doctor.

Dave Becker said...

Hello, and thanks for the comment.

I'm glad you enjoyed the episode, and my pick for this show's Chills of Yesteryear segment. Thanks so much for listening, and for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

BRAVO Dr.Shock nuther excellent episode and excellent DVD pick - Give me more HEHE!

Dave Becker said...

Thanks so much for the comment, and for stopping by.

I'm glad you enjoyed the pick, and the episode of Planet Macabre. Just as an FYI, our next show is shaping up to be a good one (and I'll do my best to pick another great classic as well).

Thanks again for stopping by the blog, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

anuther hit doctor your 7 out of 7 so far on the oldtime horror - keep it up!!

Dave Becker said...

Hello, and thanks for stopping by.

I'm glad you enjoyed my classic pick for this episode (and I really appreciate that you think I'm 7 for 7!). Hopefully, I can continue that streak with next week's classic pick!

Thanks again for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Universal horror is great for the most part, that price is sickening though. With the decline in the economy you think these companies would put out some deals. 20 dollars for a movie this old is just nuts.

I am a DVD collector currently have over 5,000 plastic discs and I wouldn't pay 20 for a new release.

Too bad because this one I wanted, your summary on the podcast convinced me, I hate the "sets" on one disc, ruins it for me. If you ever come across a better price Dr. Shock please announce it on the podcast if you would. I don't get time to visit websites too often.

Dave Becker said...

Hello, and thanks for the comment.

I agree with you on both counts: Universal horror is great, and the price for the Bela Lugosi set is WAAAYYY high! You're like me in that I own thousands of DVDs, but that number would be MUCH lower if I had to pay $20 for each of them. I myself didn't buy this set until I saw a good price for a used copy on Amazon's Marketplace (on a side note, some people don't like to buy used DVDs, but if the seller is reliable, then it really is a great way to save some money. My personal rule of thumb is: if the Amazon seller has a rating of 96% or better, and there are at LEAST 5,000 reviews for them, then you're in good hands.).

I'll keep an eye out for a low-priced copy of this set, and will certainly bring it up on Planet Macabre should I come across any.

Thanks for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Good episode again Dr. Shock. I am with the one commentor above about colorization, wouldn't mind seeing it on some of these classic horror movies.

Dave Becker said...

Hello, and thanks for stopping by.

I'm glad you enjoyed the episode. As for colorization, I have a personal preference for the original black and white, but like I said above, if it can expose a new generation to these films, then why not?

Thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

The Raven was excellent Dr/Shock, you are the PhD of sub/70's horror! Each week I can't wait to hear what you come up with on the DVD segment./Gervase

Dave Becker said...

Gervase: Thanks so much for the comment.

I appreciate the kind words, and am also glad you enjoyed THE RAVEN. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep my 'streak' alive with next Sunday's episode, or else they'll won't have to revoke that PhD of mine! :)

Thanks again for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

hy dctr this is yosef from india i liek the chils of yesterdy dvd piks this was a good dvd an so was blood feast

Dave Becker said...

@Yosef: Thanks for the comment, and for stopping by the site, and I'm glad you enjoyed THE RAVEN and BLOOD FEAST.

Thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.