Wednesday, October 12, 2011

DR. SHOCK'S HORROR THEATER HALLOWEEN MOVIE OF THE DAY: THE RAVEN (1963). Tiring of the string of Edgar Allan Poe films he was making for American International Pictures, Roger Corman and scriptwriter Richard Matheson opted for comedy with their version of the perennial favourite Poe-em. The film was a success, according to Corman himself, because the movie trailer made no mention that the film was a comedy. As usual, Matheson takes Poe only as his jumping-off point by using one set piece in the movie as based on the actual poem and interpolating the rest of the movie whole-cloth; he did the same thing with the earlier PIT AND THE PENDULUM. Here we have the actual poem figuring only in the opening scenes as Dr. Craven (Vincent Price) sits alone in his chamber and is disturbed by a raven rapping, not as his chamber door, but at his window. The raven does flap over to land on a bust of Pallas but, when Price asks the monstrous bird if he'll ever see his lost Lenore again, the raven croaks in Peter Lorre's voice: "How the hell should I know?!?!" The raven is actually low-grade sorcerer Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre) who has been changed into a raven by the powerful mage Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). After some hijinx conjuring up a potion to change him back to human form, Dr. Bedlo enlists the aid of Dr. Craven to go seek revenge on Scarabus by telling him he's seen Craven's dead wife Lenore (Hazel Court) at Scarabus' castle. The two magicians travel to the castle along with Craven's daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess) and Bedlo's son Rexford (Jack Nicholson). The seemingly kindly Scarabus welcomes them and offers them dinner and lodging from the storm; however, Scarabus is not as innocent as he seems. THE RAVEN is a lot of fun and the chance to see these three great horror icons enjoying themselves is a priceless gift; the fun would become even greater when Corman would combines Price, Lorre, Karloff AND Basil Rathbone in the Jacques Tourneur directed THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (one of my all-time favourite films) a year later. Young Jack Nicholson is splendid as Lorre's son; constantly fussing and fiddling with Lorre's collar and coat-buttons like a doting son seeking his father's approval while Lorre hurls abuse at him. The legendary on-set clash of acting styles featuring Karloff's classically-trained preparedness with Lorre's brilliant ad-libbing was brought together by Price bridging both sides results in three superb comic performances from the trio of terror. This film is a Halloween party on celluloid -- if you don't believe me just take a look at Vinnie's party hat!
Today's Halloweenie Comic Book Cover of the Day #12 is JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #94 (1971).


Squonk said...

"The Raven" is a great film. Funny and creepy. Price, Karloff, and Lorre are all worth the price of admission.

Cerpts said...

The film is a true example of an embarrassment of riches: there's always at least one master of the macabre on screen at all times. Who could ask for more?