The Raven – USA, 1963 – reviews

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‘A macabre masterpiece of terror!’

The Raven is a 1963 American comedy horror feature film produced and directed by Roger Corman. The movie stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff as a trio of rival sorcerers. The playful, lively score is by Les Baxter.

The Raven 1963

The film was the fifth in the so-called Corman-Poe cycle of eight films largely featuring adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories produced by Roger Corman and released by American International Pictures (AIP). It was written by Richard Matheson, based on references to Poe’s poem “The Raven“. The supporting cast includes Hazel Court and a young Jack Nicholson.

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Roger Corman and Richard Matheson had both enjoyed making The Black Cat comic episode of Tales of Terror and wanted to try an entirely comic Poe feature. “After I heard they wanted to make a movie out of a poem, I felt that was an utter joke, so comedy was really the only way to go with it,” said Matheson.

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A novelisation of the film was written by Eunice Sudak (who also wrote the Tales of Terror and X novelisations) adapted from Matheson’s screenplay and published by Lancer Books in paperback. This novel was republished by Bear Manor Media in 2012.

On March 9, 2015, Arrow Video is releasing The Raven on Blu-ray in the UK. Special features include:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
  • Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Peter Lorre: The Double Face, Harun Farocki’s 1984 documentary
  • Richard Matheson: Storyteller, an interview with the legendary novelist and screenwriter
  • Corman’s Comedy of Poe, an interview with Roger Corman about making The Raven
  • The Trick, a short film about rival magicians by Rob Green (The Bunker)
  • Promotional Record
  • Stills and Poster Gallery
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Vic Pratt and Rob Green, illustrated with original stills and artwork

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Buy The Raven on Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk

Plot teaser:

In the 15th century, the sorcerer Doctor Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) has been mourning the death of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court) for over two years, much to the chagrin of his daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess). One night he is visited by a raven, who happens to be a transformed wizard, Doctor Bedlo (Peter Lorre). Together they brew a strange potion that restores Bedlo to his old self.

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Bedlo explains he had been transformed by the evil Doctor Scarabus (Boris Karloff) in an unfair duel, and both decide to see Scarabus, Bedlo to exact revenge and Craven to look for his wife’s ghost, which Bedlo reportedly saw at Scarabus’ castle. After fighting off the attack of Craven’s coachman, who apparently acted under the influence of Scarabus, they set out to the castle, joined by Craven’s daughter Estelle and Bedlo’s son Rexford (Jack Nicholson).

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At the castle, Scarabus greets his guests with false friendship, and Bedlo is apparently killed as he conjures a storm in a last act of defiance against his nemesis. At night, Rexford finds him alive and well, hiding in the castle. Craven, meanwhile, is visited and tormented by Lenore, who is revealed to be alive and well too, having faked her death two years before to move away with Scarabus. As Craven, Estelle, Rexford and Bedlo try to escape the castle, Scarabus stops them, and they are tied and locked up. Bedlo panics and flees away in raven form, having convinced Scarabus to turn him back into bird form rather than face torture…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The whole thing is played very tongue in cheek and is mostly about having fun not being terrified. The final battle between Karloff and Price is really entertaining and fun to watch; it is very reminiscent of the wizard’s duel in The Sword in the Stone released the same year. The special effects are dated but actually, considering the year and the budget, very effective and fun.” 31 Days of Terror

“It’s really a shame, given the high caliber of what has preceded it, that the climactic duel of magic is both so incredibly long and so incredibly lame. Ending a movie with a huge special effects set-piece is always a risky proposition, but it becomes a sure-fire formula for outright disaster when there’s no money in a movie’s budget for special effects! Up to this point, The Raven has been a comfortably low-key movie, driven by acerbic wit, careful characterization, and brilliant casting.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

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“It’s miles from Poe, but it’s one of the funniest and most enjoyable horror spoofs ever made, with a witty script and smart direction; the three principals’ enjoyment of the whole affair communicates itself to the audience. A delight, with a wooden performance by Nicholson for connoisseurs of the bizarre to savour.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

“A snappy little parody of a horror picture cutely calculated to make the children scream with terror while their parents scream with glee.” Time (1963)

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Choice dialogue:

The Raven (Peter Lorre): “Will you give me some wine!”

Cast:

  • Vincent Price as Doctor Erasmus Craven
  • Peter Lorre as Doctor Adolphus Bedlo
  • Boris Karloff as Doctor Scarabus
  • Hazel Court as Lenore Craven
  • Olive Sturgess as Estelle Craven
  • Jack Nicholson as Rexford Bedlo
  • Connie Wallace as Maid
  • William Baskin as Grimes
  • Aaron Saxon as Gort
  • Dick Johnstone as Roderick Craven (uncredited)
  • Mark Sheeler

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