In this episode of Pop Culture Beast’s Halloween Horror Picks, filmmaker and screenwriter Kevin DiNovis joins me to talk about a kid-friendly horror/comedy with an incredible cast – The Raven (1963)!
Produced and directed by Roger Corman from a script by Richard Matheson (based upon the poem by Edgar Allan Poe), The Raven stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, Olive Sturgess, and Jack Nicholson.
This was the fifth film in the Corman Poe cycle – eight movies directed by Corman and loosely based upon Edgar Allan Poe stories. Of all of these films, The Raven is by far the funniest, the others being rather more serious horror fare.
The story opens on Poe’s original poem, but quickly deviates into solidly comical territory. Matheson plays very fast and loose with the source material and turns the plot toward two competing sorcerers: Erasmus Craven (Price) and Dr. Scarabus (Karloff). Scarabus has transformed a third wizard named Bedlo (Lorre) into a Raven, and has possibly also enchanted Craven’s long thought dead ex-wife Lenore (Court). A slapdash rescue mission is attempted with Craven’s daughter (Sturgess) and Bedlo’s son (Nicholson) along for the hijinks.
Vincent Price is typically charming and wonderful here, and Karloff is unsurprisingly menacing as the villain of the piece… But Peter Lorre is an outright revelation in this! He’s so funny, and so obviously having a blast with the goofy material that it’s hard to reconcile his performance here with his far more serious larger body of work. If you’ve only seen him in movies like M (1931) or The Maltese Falcon (1941), give The Raven a look. I think you’ll be quite surprised!
The Raven is a decidedly silly comedy and not for Poe purists or those seeking the more serious thrills of, say… The Terror (1963) or The Masque of the Red Death (1964). But if you’re up for a lark (or should I say Raven?) and can appreciate three of horror cinema’s greatest fiends just having a bit of fun, then I recommend The Raven this Halloween! It’s an enjoyable comedy and perfect viewing for those horror fans who are looking for something the kids can enjoy also. I rate it 8/10!
Look for new episodes of Pop Culture Beast’s Halloween Horror Picks every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in October! You can watch past episodes HERE.
Ryan Stockstad is a Los Angeles filmmaker with a passion for horror, documentary and experimental cinema. He has written articles for HC Magazine, Mostly Harmless Magazine and various blogs and websites. He has lectured on topics as diverse as low budget filmmaking, short story structure, and the influence of the Spanish Civil War on surrealist cinema. He hosts new episodes of Pop Culture Beast's Halloween Horror Picks every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in October.