THE RAVEN (1935) Reviews and overview

New! Visitor ratings! Click on a star to indicate your rating of this movie!

The Raven is a 1935 American Universal horror feature film directed by Lew Landers [as Louis Friedlander] from a screenplay written by David Boehm (plus seven other uncredited contributing writers). The movie stars Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Irene Ware, Lester Matthews and Inez Courtney.

“Suggested by Edgar Allan Poe’s immortal classic” homonymous poem (but with little connection), the movie features Lugosi as a Poe-obsessed mad surgeon Doctor Vollin with a torture chamber in his basement and Karloff as a fugitive murderer desperately on the run from the police.

In the UK, Eureka Entertainment is releasing a two-disc Bela Lugosi Limited Edition Blu-ray set of three Universal Pictures on July 20, 2020. Order via

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations, with The Raven presented from a 2K scan
• Uncompressed LPCM monaural audio tracks
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• Murders in the Rue Morgue – Audio commentary by Gregory William Mank
• The Black Cat audio commentaries by Gregory William Mank (carried over from the Scream Factory release) and Amy Simmons
• The Raven audio commentaries by Gary D Rhodes (carried over from the Scream Factory release) and Samm Deighan
• Cats In Horror – a video essay by Lee Gambin
• American Gothic – a video essay by Kat Ellinger
• The Black Cat episode of radio series Mystery In The Air, starring Peter Lorre
• The Tell-Tale Heart episode of radio series Inner Sanctum Mysteries, starring Boris Karloff
• Bela Lugosi reads The Tell-Tale Heart (carried over from the Scream Factory release)
• Vintage footage (of Karloff and Lugosi inspecting black cats in a publicity stunt)
• New interview with author Kim Newman
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by film critic and writer Jon Towlson; a new essay by film critic and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; and rare archival imagery and ephemera


After pretty Jean Thatcher (Ware) has been injured in a car accident, her father, Judge Thatcher (Hinds) and beau Jerry (Matthews) implore retired surgeon Doctor Richard Vollin (Lugosi) to perform a delicate operation to restore her to health.

Vollin agrees and is successful; he befriends the spirited and grateful Jean, in the process revealing his passion for all things related to Edgar Allan Poe, including his collection of torture devices inspired by Poe’s works such as a pit, pendulum with a scythe, shrinking room.

After Vollin reveals his growing love for Jean to her father, the Judge quickly discourages him from the affair. Angered, Vollin hatches a plan when Edmund Bateman (Karloff), a murderer on the run, comes to his home asking for a new face so he may live in anonymity.

Vollin admits he is not a plastic surgeon but says he can help Bateman and asks him to help in exacting revenge on the Thatchers, which he refuses. Vollin performs the surgery, but instead turns Bateman into a disfigured monster, promising only to operate again on Bateman when Vollin’s revenge is exacted…


“While Lugosi undoubtedly sends The Raven crashing, the film would have imploded from boredom without him. Aside from Karloff, the rest of the cast is a non-presence, alternately delivering lethargic line readings and grotesque comedy relief, which is anything but. The only relief is supplied by the two stars, who are our lifeline, even through all that Lugosi pretension.” 366 Weird Movies

“The absurdly brief running time (scarcely more than an hour) makes for a fast pace and prevents the comic relief players (the other guests at Vollin’s party) from getting out of hand. And of the greatest importance, The Raven’s overall tongue-in-cheek approach meshes well with Lugosi’s wild histrionics. This is one case in which his madcap overacting is just what the role calls for…”. 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“[Lugosi’s] performance may be stagy and hammy, but it’s also dynamic; he knows how to raise his eyebrows or cackle insanely for maximum effect. Karloff’s less theatrical acting style provides a nice balance to Lugosi as well as the film’s dollop of pathos. Not surprisingly, the supporting cast is a lot less interesting to watch, a problem that isn’t helped by uninspired generic dialogue (e.g., “Oh darling, isn’t it wonderful?”).” All Movie

” …Bela Lugosi – a pretty weird man at the best of times – is so bizarre here, he’s still rather unsettling. Add to this another nicely pantomimed performance from Karloff and yet more impressive effects work from Jack Pierce and you have a film that has a lot more to recommend it than the studio’s endless Mummy, Wolf Man and Frankenstein sequels”. Film4

the raven 1935 karloff lugosi poe

“Friedlander’s static direction slogs from one halfhearted set-piece to the next, culminating in a frenzied finale that never really catches fire. The lighting by Charles Stumar is occasionally moody, but more often lacks finesse. Too polished to be dismissed as inept, it is nevertheless thoroughly unremarkable filmmaking barely held afloat by the charisma of its two leading men”. Eccentric Cinema

“While lacking the fantastical atmosphere of The Black Cat, this Universal outing is packed with thrills and has the look and feel of the popular action serials that director Lew Landers helmed around the same time. A timeless classic.” Kultguy’s Keep

“Quite the most unpleasant picture I have ever seen […] it exploited cruelty for cruelty’s sake.” London Daily Telegraph, 1935

Cast and characters:

Boris Karloff … Edmond Bateman (as Karloff)
Bela Lugosi … Doctor Richard Vollin (as Lugosi) (as Bela Lugosi)
Lester Matthews … Doctor Jerry Halden (Credits) / Doctor Jerry Holden
Irene Ware … Jean Thatcher
Samuel S. Hinds … Judge Thatcher
Spencer Charters … Geoffrey (Credits) / Col. Bertram Grant
Inez Courtney … Mary Burns
Ian Wolfe … Colonel Bertram Grant (Credits) / Geoffrey ‘Pinky’
Maidel Turner … Harriet

Filming locations:

Stage 28, Universal Studios – 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California

Technical details:

61 minutes
Black and white
Aspect Ratio: 1.37: 1
Audio: Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)


$115,000 (estimated)

Watch The Raven free online via the Internet Archive

MOVIES and MANIA provides an aggregated range of film reviews from a wide variety of credited sources, plus our own reviews and ratings, in one handy web location. We are a genuinely independent website and rely solely on the minor income generated by internet ads to stay online and expand. Please support us by not blocking ads. If you do block ads please consider making a small donation to our running costs instead. We'd really appreciate it. Thank you. As an Amazon Associate, the owner occasionally earns a small amount from qualifying linked purchases.