A wealthy judge coaxes the brilliant but eccentric neurological surgeon Dr. Vollin (Lugosi), who also has an obsessive penchant for Edgar Allen Poe, out of retirement to save the life of his daughter, a dancer crippled and brain damaged in an auto wreck. Vollin restores her completely, but also envisions her as his "Lenore," and cooks up a scheme to kidnap the woman and torture and kill her fiance' and father in his Poe-inspired dungeon. To do his dirty work, Vollin recruits a wanted criminal (Karloff), and turns him into a hideous monster to guarantee his subservience. Written by
Kevin Rayburn <kprayb01@homer.Louisville.edu>
Shooting lasted from Mar. 20-Apr. 5, 1935, released July 4 in NYC, with Bela Lugosi in attendance, due to sail to England to begin Phantom Ship. See more »
When Judge Thatcher goes to Vollin's home to plead his case, the shadow of Vollin's stuffed raven changes position. First, it is in front of Thatcher's shadow, then behind, then in front again. See more »
Dr. Vollin (Lugosi) who's a Neurosurgeon with a large interest in Poe inspired torture comes out of retirement for a wealthy judge to save his daughter that was seriously injured in a auto wreck. During the recovery state the doctor falls for the girl and wants to marry her. Though, the doctor has a plan to torture his guests and with help from an unwillingly on the run murderer Bateman (Karloff) who's face was disfigured by the doctor when he wanted his face changed. So now he must do his biding or the doctor won't restore his face.
"The Raven" is a pretty good BW horror film that truly delivers the goods even though it's not particularly grand or inventive. It holds a fairly entertaining if rather routine narrative of clichés (stormy night in strange house). Though, you can't go wrong with a stormy night in a horror film. Saying that, it's the evoking presence of Karloff and Lugosi when on screen that makes it a great spectacle as there performances overshadow the rather foreseeable material or plot. For a mostly talkative film it doesn't have a sluggish feel and it moves at a rather brisk pace.
It had a ludicrous plot with some far-fetched scenario's (A quick recovery after surgery) and unintentionally humorous moments. After a real talkative first half about these amusing Poe torture designs we get to see them finally in use. It's too bad he used them towards the end, as not much torturing did happen, but mostly talk of these devices. Though, when it did happen there was a lot of imagination and interesting ideas. This is when the sudden thrills pick up in the last 20-mintues and it suddenly gets quite claustrophobic further along the film goes. In which Dr. Vollin really tightens the screws in some energetic and upbeat scenes. These scenes aren't terribly suspenseful, but the confrontations between Bateman and Vollin are vibrantly compelling and the devices achieve such a horrific mood. The climax is rather grand too. The ending was rather sudden and you can say lame for my liking. Dialogue was a mix bad with some engaging dialogue from the leads coming across as poetic and other times it was rather stilted or just plain corny.
A rather enforcing and roaring music score surrounds and captures the terror superbly. The film is well shot and is very atmospheric indeed. There is such great use of shadow and lighting composition in the mansion and a superb layout of the dungeon with its torture devices. The storm helps the atmosphere to be effective too. Karloff's character with the disfiguring is treated with decent make-up effects and it really does keep you glued at staring at it.
Rather mundane performances from the cast except for the two strong central leads and maybe with the exception of Samuel S. Hinds as Judge Thatcher. It's definitely one of Lugosi's best performances as the sadistic Dr. Vollin. Lugosi gives us his usual evil grimaces and at times goes over-the-top in delivering the dialogue. While Borris Karloff gives a solid performance, but I wouldn't class it as one of his greatest. He shines as the demented criminal Edmond Bateman who's lurking around the house with great effect.
For me it was a competent shocker that holds some unforgettable scenes and performances.
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