Dr. Vollin (Bela Lugosi) is a brilliant and Edgar Allen Poe obsessed Surgeon. He saves Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware) from life threatening injuries and starts to be obsessed with her.
Director: Lew Landers
Cast: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lester Matthews, Irene Ware, Samuel S. Hinds
MPAA Rating: N/A
Run Time: 1hr 1min
Fun Fact: Bela Lugosi was reportedly upset the fact that Boris Karloff got top billing when Lugosi’s character was the main focus of the film.
Here we kick off the Halloween review series off early as I have neglected it the last couple of years. The main focus will be films like this one from the Universal line of horror films. This is the second film that features Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi teaming up together with the first being The Black Cat, another Edgar Allen Poe influenced film. To get it out of the way is that these films have nothing to do with Poe’s stories other than being in name only. Going back to the Karloff and Lugosi team up. Think of this as like today with an ensemble cast in a superhero film. These two were the biggest horror stars in the 1930’s and had scored major hits in performances in Frankenstein and Dracula in 1931 respectively.
We get a simple obsession plot where Bela Lugosi is a man obsessed with Poe’s works and the torture devices that are used in the film. His obsession gets bigger after he saves a dancer from near death portrayed by Irene Ware. Lugosi owns this role as he is heavily featured as the film’s main villain. He is menacing when he needs to be and peppers in the over the top when he needs to. He has a goal, and he will do anything menacing to get to that goal as well. In all of Lugosi’s performances this is easily top five for me. While studios thought Lugosi wasn’t much of a star due to his Hungarian accent, I think it makes his performance stand out. His laugh at one point of the film his both chilling and a bit over the top that it works. I’m a die-hard Lugosi fan so I was loving every minute of it.
As for Karloff, he delivers a solid and reliable performance but, you could have had anyone in his role, and it would have worked just as well. Karloff doesn’t show up until halfway through the film and he doesn’t really do much to think of it. He is saved for the end mostly. Don’t get me wrong I love Karloff’s performances but, I tend to think it’s not his most memorable. That’s saying something because like I stated before I like the performance in this one but, to the casual fan they might forget that he was in it. The make up on Karloff looked solid and he did look frightening at certain angles. For the rest of the cast, we get a mixed bag and some of the characters could have been cut out and you wouldn’t miss them. We get a bit of everything from comedic roles to just typical serious roles that tries to balance the film out in a way.
One of the best things about the film is the production values. The sets have that classic feel to them, and it creates a perfect environment for the film to succeed. The lair that Lugosi’s character has is well built. It has a few torture devices that were used in Poe’s stories, and we get to see some of them in action. The film has a shorter runtime than most films and it does take a bit to get to the climax. When we get to the climax though it is worth the wait as quite a bit is going on. We get to a certain point where the audience will clutch to their seats seeing what goes on.
Overall, The Raven is a decent film in the Universal horror catalog. We get a great performance from Bela Lugosi as a menacing and over the top villain. Lugosi has a certain flare to him that I have always enjoyed, and the film features him heavily. It’s a shame that the studio decided not to have him in as the top billing as he was overshadowed by Boris Karloff once again. While Karloff delivers a solid but short performance, it’s not his most memorable in his career. While the film feels longer than it really is there is other interesting things going on to keep an audience interested. We get a bit of comedy and seriousness that balances out in a decent way. If you want to watch a movie but don’t have the time, I suggest giving it a go. It clocks in over an hour and part of me wishes it were a bit longer to get a bit more establishment in other areas. I do own a poster of this film so that is saying something.