Raven, The (1935)

“I will not be tortured… I tear torture out of myself by torturing you!

Synopsis:
A psychotic, Poe-obsessed surgeon (Bela Lugosi) saves the life of a beautiful young dancer (Irene Ware), then falls obsessively in love with her. When her father (Samuel S. Hinds) ridicules his request for her hand in marriage, Lugosi blackmails a fugitive criminal (Boris Karloff) into torturing Ware, her fiance (Lester Matthews), and Hinds.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Dubbed “a fatal mistake from beginning to end” by the New York Times upon its release, this Poe-inspired Universal horror flick has since gained a latter day cult following, with Peary himself referring to it as “great fun”, and accurately noting that Lugosi seems to be having “a field day” playing the “fiendish surgeon” with a penchant for everything-Poe. Equally effective — and surprisingly sympathetic — is top-billed Karloff as a tortured criminal whose perceived ugliness has prevented him from becoming the “good man” he longs to be; his intentionally botched facial surgery at the hands of evil Lugosi is tragic to behold. While not quite as stylistically innovative as its more celebrated precursor (The Black Cat), The Raven nonetheless offers plenty of unintentional camp, and some genuinely frightening moments; hearing Lugosi rant and rave about how he can only purge his own insanity by torturing others ranks among the great horror chills of all time.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bela Lugosi as Dr. Vollin: “After your torture, I’ll be the sanest man in the world!”
    Raven Lugosi
  • Boris Karloff as Bateman: “If a man looks ugly, he does ugly things…”
    Raven Karloff
  • Karloff shooting at himself in multiple mirrors after seeing his newly disfigured face
    Raven Shooting
  • A freaky tale of demented, obsessive love
    Raven Obsessve
  • Creepy set designs
    Raven Torture
  • Atmospheric cinematography
    Raven Cinematography

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a latter-day cult favorite.

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One Response to “Raven, The (1935)”

  1. Not a must.

    Yes, there is a bit of unintentional camp here – esp. when Karloff is operated on and becomes something of an idiot in the adjustment. And it’s particularly puzzling about Lugosi: how could he have been such a closeted maniac and simultaneously an esteemed doctor? Unless he knew he had to take a sabbatical and give up practice to hone his skills…as a maniac?

    There’s just about nothing that’s innovative here, even if it’s fun watching Karloff and Lugosi play off each other.

    At any rate, it doesn’t seem to have suffered from editing. It does seem complete. It’s watchable.

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