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>
This solid little horror feature offers Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together again, plus an interesting (if completely implausible) story. There are a fair number of Edgar Allan Poe references, but no real connections - none of the material bears any real resemblance to Poe, and the references are meant to be atmospheric at the most.
Lugosi's role in this one is much larger than Karloff's, and Bela carries most of the story. His theatrical style is quite appropriate in the role of Dr. Vollin, making for an entertaining yet genuinely dangerous foe. When Lugosi is in good form, he can make the most ridiculous dialogue come out right. Both the story and dialogue here would indeed collapse under the most basic logical analysis, and Lugosi's showmanship is one of the reasons why much of it works anyway.
While Karloff has a smaller role, he also does a good job, and indeed the movie would not have worked very well without Karloff's efforts in making Bateman pathetic and unheroic, yet human and understandable. The rest of the cast have fewer opportunities, yet the roles are filled by good character players who all do their jobs well.
The consensus, namely that "The Raven" is a cut below the previous year's Boris/Bela collaboration "The Black Cat", seems accurate. Yet "The Raven" in itself is a solid and usually entertaining feature.
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