HMM Day 22 – The Raven

A talented surgeon obsessed with the works of Edgar Allen Poe falls in love with a beautiful woman that he cannot win the affections of. Driven insane by jealousy and lust, this man devises a terrible scheme in torturing those that are in his way to win her heart!

The Raven is a 1935 horror film directed by Lew Landers. It stars Bela Lugosi as Dr. Vollin and Boris Karloff as Edmond Bateman. This is the second film the two horror titans would appear in together and it is third of three Universal films based on the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. The first two being 1932’s Murders in the Rue Morgue and 1934’s The Black Cat. The Raven performed rather poorly in theaters which caused Lugosi to lose work due to the producers not wanting to film as many horror pictures. But since then The Raven has become a Golden Age icon.

The Story

Dr. Vollin (Lugosi) is an accomplished surgeon and a man obsessed with the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. When a talented young actress named Jean Thatcher (Ware) is wounded in an automobile accident, Vollin is the only doctor capable of saving her life. Stricken by her beauty and talent in the theater, Vollin pursues her love and affection; but is quickly denied by Jean and her father. Hellbent and mad for Jean, no force in nature will keep her from him! After blackmailing a dangerous fugitive named Edmond Bateman (Karloff) to do his evil biding, Vollin sets out to accomplish his dastardly desires through murder and torture! After inviting Jean, her fiance and her father to a party, they are soon exposed to Vollins house of murder; full of torture devices inspired by Poe’s writings.

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One Messed Up Goth

Lugosi as Doctor Vollin is pure evil and delivers his role in his usual suave manor. But man is this dude jacked up! His obsession with Poe has made him delirious and kooky. He actually thinks he’s as tortured as the man in the Raven poem. He’s the modern equivalent of a white American goth kid listening to Marilyn Manson music and thinking his life is pain while his mom is baking roast chicken for dinner and his dad is making plans for their next camping trip! What kind of torment does Vollin have? He’s a rich doctor with tons of respect. A part from his reading Poe poems all the time, I would assume he’s a kick at parties! Somethings in his brain has been unplugged so he’s a couple quarts short of a gallon! Nonetheless, Lugosi makes us believe his psychosis is deep. Every line he speaks is mysterious and a craft of excellence. Lugosi was Hungarian so his accent makes every word sound devious and menacing. Go ahead, say the word “torture” as cruel and threatening as you can. You probably sound like a giant pussy compared to Bela Lugosi! The guy was amazing and his maniacal laugh is haunting.

Karloff is dominating in his role as Edmond and just as psychotic as Vollin. He’s this criminal being forced to partake in Vollin’s evil plan. Vollin scars Edmond’s face and won’t fix it unless he does whatever he’s commanded. He’s actually a sad story in that he doesn’t want to do wrong but has no choice. I don’t actually see why he wouldn’t be fine with killing people for Vollin. There’s a scene where he talks to Vollin about a bank heist, in which he burns a dudes face off with a blow torch! His comment about it all is “Well, sometimes you can’t help things like that.” DAMN DUDE! You burned some guys face off and all you can think is how it’s something you can’t help from happening? You are jacked up just as bad as the Edgar Allen Poe hipster. You two should get matching sleeve tattoos and start an accordion rock band called Divided Ulterior Missing Baby Artificial Silly Sacks (D.U.M.B.A.S.S.).

Similarities

It’s actually quite interesting how in this film, Lugosi and Karloff resemble their other roles of Dracula and Frankenstein. Which makes sense, Universal wrote this picture in mind of who they were and why they were so famous. Edmond Bateman is like Frankenstein in that he’s the muscle that obeys orders. He makes reference to being ugly and how it’s a reason for murdering and being mean. He’s reactionary like Frankenstein and even presents himself as a character that has a chance of making the right decision. In which he finally does at the very end of the movie. Vollin is scheming and meticulous in his murderous ploy. Like Dracula he only wishes to kill whoever is in his way. He’s pure evil and loves the shedding of blood.

The Raven is one of my most favorite Golden Age films and for good reason. It is a beautiful film shot with the typical classical style. But also a sick and twisted movie about a brilliant man gone completely insane. No wonder this movie didn’t perform well in theaters! With all it’s talk and depictions of torture, people must have been fuming over the content. To be honest this movie didn’t serve Lugosi all to well either. Since his name was on top of the poster, he took most of the heat for it’s criticism. Even after the film, Lugosi struggled to find work and some say this movie fueled a competition between him and Karloff. Although, that could have started when Lugosi passed up the role as Frankenstein. Leaving Karloff to take the part and become a superstar. It might not have been such a heated competition as Lugosi and Karloff would star in eight films together. Obviously they didn’t hate each other. Either way, these two on screen make a wonderful duo.

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The movie is just a great film with a soft quiet tone, scenes were Lugosi plays the organ or elaborates on the torture of the Raven is mysterious. I love how George Baileys father is laying in the pendulum. Just trapped there as the knife swings closer and closer. I almost thought it would have been great if Vollin had died in his torture room but they didn’t free the father in time! They wouldn’t have to show anything, just insinuate everything ends with a Dr. Vollin win. Lugosi and Karloff are more than brilliant. They prove that they own the silver screen both individually and together. There characters are an amazing contrast. One is ugly and a rogue to society. Yet the other is rich, handsome, respected and intelligent. Bateman may be a terrible convict but he ultimately redeems himself while Vollin is a terrible psycho who hides his ugliness where Bateman can’t. They both die but one at by the torture of his own machines and the other out of heroism. It’s a perfect example of great Golden Age films and will forever remain a shinning example of classical cinemas. So sit back, relax and enjoy this rather short movie for day twenty two of Horror Movie Marathon 2018.

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