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In this tongue-in-cheek movie inspired by Poe's poem, Dr. Craven is the son of a great sorcerer (now dead) who was once himself quite skilled at that profession, but has since abandoned it. One evening, a cowardly fool of a magician named Bedlo comes to Craven for help- the evil Scarabus has turned him into a raven and he needs someone to change him back. He also tells the reluctant wizard that Craven's long-lost wife Lenore, whom he loved greatly and thought dead, is living with the despised Scarabus. Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Roger Corman's "The Raven" is the best of the Poe films and the most entertaining. It owes even less to Poe than some of the other adaptations, but I can't recall laughing so much in a horror film. That it was intended as a followup to the wildly successful "Tales of Terror" only added to the good vibes. The historic teaming of three horror stars Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre makes this irresistible.
Price plays one of his rare good guy roles as Craven, a good warlock living in his castle in England (where else?). Lorre is Bedlo, a coward who was turned into a raven by the evil sorcerer Scarabus (Karloff). Craven changes him back and Bedlo tells the good warlock/magician that his thought to be dead wife is shacking up with Scarabus. This sets up the final 20 minutes of the film, a hilarious showdown between Craven and Scarabus involving lasers and cheesy red arrows that only make the viewer laugh even more than he/she was doing before.
The great castle designed by Daniel Haller was reused famously in "The Terror" shot two days after this wrapped by Corman. Unless you're a film buff, you probably won't notice, but it adds a comic touch to an already hilarious film. The best comic moments belong to Lorre and Jack Nicholson (as Lorre's son). These two are nuts! Floyd Crosby's photography (in Panavision and Pathecolor) is solid as usual (although the castle isn't; he,he) and Richard Matheson's script (with bits added by Price, Karloff, Lorre and Nicholson) is one of the best comedy scripts ever written. Why wasn't "The Raven" on the AFI Top 100 Comedies List? It's as good as anything in the Top 10 (better than the second ranked Tootsie, that's for sure). The probable answer: they don't know great comedy even if it bit them in the butt.
**** out of 4 stars
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