Raven, The (1963)

“Men like Scarabus thrive on the apathy of others.”

Raven 1963 Poster

Synopsis:
After helping a magician-turned-raven (Peter Lorre) return to his human form, the son (Vincent Price) of a deceased grand sorceror — accompanied by his daughter (Olive Sturgess), Lorre, and Lorre’s son (Jack Nicholson) — heads to the castle of his father’s rival, Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff), who may be living with Price’s long-lost wife Lenore (Hazel Court).

Genres:

Review:
After successfully injecting dark humor into the second vignette of their Poe-inspired anthology film Tales of Terror (1962), Roger Corman and screenwriter Richard Matheson decided to craft this overtly comedic parody, which only very loosely adheres to elements of its supposed source material (Poe’s poem “The Raven”). While the premise is clever, the film gets off to a decidedly creaky start, as the humor remains dull at best, and we keep hoping for more biting wit to emerge; it’s not until Karloff arrives on the scene that things finally begin to perk up — indeed, he’s such an engaging presence that whenever his character is part of the storyline, one can’t help suddenly feeling more involved. Karloff’s culminating duel with Price — while marred somewhat by corny low-budget special effects — remains the film’s undisputed comedic highlight. Watch for a young, handsome Jack Nicholson, who gives a decent (if not particularly inspired) performance as Lorre’s son.

Note: Karloff co-starred in another Poe-related film entitled The Raven (1935) nearly 30 years earlier; the two would make an interesting double-bill.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Boris Karloff as Dr. Scarabus
    Raven Karloff
  • Game performances by the ensemble cast
    Raven Ensemble Cast
  • The fun duel finale
    Raven Duel

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look, simply for its fun moments — and as a cult favorite.

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One Response to “Raven, The (1963)”

  1. A once-must, as one of the more successful Corman flicks of the period.

    This is not a great classic by any means – but it’s entertaining enough to warrant a look, and you won’t mind passing the time with it, especially with these pros having fun playing off each other. Matheson’s script is not half-bad (for what it is). Things move efficiently (helped along immensely by Les Baxter’s delightful score) and there are enough surprises to hold interest effortlessly. It’s rather nice seeing Corman in this comedic a mood for a change – and, considering how notorious he was with his low budgets, this film looks and feels pretty nifty.

    In other words, it’s an above-average popcorn flick. And, as noted, the duel finale is fun – it’s actually what makes the movie worth it. By turns, it’s thrilling and chuckle-worthy seeing Karloff and Price zapping each other (with magical rays, etc.) non-stop as they think up ways to out-do each other. (My fave here is when Price suddenly thrusts a bat at Karloff, who turns it into a black fan and, almost coquettishly, fans himself.)

    Overall, an enjoyable cult item.

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