#292 -- The Raven (1963)

Director: Roger Corman
Rating: 4 / 5

Years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about this version of Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem. My dad told me about it, and it was one particular scene he described that made me really want to see it: something about Vincent Price being put into a hole and then using his arms like wings to get himself out. Seriously? Gotta see it. So I watched it, and then I watched it again. I honestly think it only gets funnier the more you watch  it. IMDB says it's a comedy/fantasy/horror movie. I can definitely see the fantasy and horror aspects of it, but there's no denying the fact that it's mostly a comedy. This shit's funny, that's the bottom line.

So, at the beginning we've got a voice-over quoting The Raven. Then we've got a Dr. Craven (Price) sitting in a very luxurious room, drawing a neon-colored raven in thin air using only his finger. Yep, he's a fucking wizard. Or sorcerer, whatever you want to call him. In the movie, they call him a magician, but what he does is so much more than that of your regular magician. Anyways, while he's drawing this raven, he hears a peculiar rapping at his chamber door (it's actually the window, but you get my point), so he goes to see what the noise is. It is a beautiful raven. He asks the thing if it wants to come inside, it dips its head in reply, and he lets it into his room. It flies around for a minute, he talks to it, and eventually it starts to answer. You would think that, maybe Mr. Craven is losing his mind, but that's not the case. This raven is actually a man, a fellow magician who was turned into a bird during a magic duel. He came to Craven in hopes that he could help restore him to his rightful form. There's a potion that will do this, and the raven knows the ingredients, but Craven has to go down into his father's old laboratory to get them. The thing is, Craven is apparently a vegetarian, and the ingredients are extremely disgusting to him. He needs things like dead man's hair, jellied spiders, evaporated bat's blood, and other nasty things. But he's a benevolent man, so he helps the raven. Together, the get the potion going, the raven drinks it, and he turns back into a man.

The raven's name is actually Dr. Bedlo, and he was turned into a raven by Dr. Scarabus, who happens to be the Craven family's rival. Bedlo wants to return to Scarabus' castle to have his revenge on the man, and he wants Craven to accompany him, but he refuses, saying that Scarabus is far too dangerous a man. And Craven, lately, has been living a pretty tame life since his wife Lenore passed away. Bedlo, seeing a photograph of Lenore, tells Craven that he swears he saw the woman in Scarabus' castle only the night before, and Craven becomes convinced that the man has imprisoned his late wife's soul, so he finally agrees to go along. Craven's daughter, worried about her father's safety, also tags along. Before they leave, Bedlo's son Rexford shows up, and he goes along as well. Together, they all travel to the castle of Scarabus to see just what's going on. The whole thing turns out to be a scheme set in motion by Scarabus, because he wants the secret to Craven's wonderful magic. He's an evil, evil man, and the movie ends with an epic duel between the two.

There are many, many great things about this movie. First, let's talk about Craven and Scarabus' duel. It's pretty corny, but the effects were better than I would have expected. They've got streaks of light/power coming from their fingertips; they can make things appear out of thin air, and yes, Vincent Price did mimic a bird in order to get out of a hole that Scarabus created in his floor. There were also a lot of great people here. There was Vincent Price as Dr. Craven, of course; Boris Karloff was Dr. Scarabus, and Rexford Bedlo was played by a very young and handsome Jack Nicholson. Dr. Bedlo was played by a guy named Peter Lorre. I've never seen him in anything else, but I think he's wonderful. His character was an alcoholic, and he was absolutely hilarious. Besides all that great stuff, the movie was written by Richard Matheson, the same guy who wrote the book that I am Legend, as well as several other movies, was based on. So, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Richard Matheson, and the funny guy Peter Lorre...Ready to see it yet?

Even though all of these things I've mentioned are great in themselves, there's only one thing you really need to know about The Raven. A magical duel between Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. 'Nuff said.

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