The Cult Class Collection

The Raven (1963)

Starring: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Hazel Court, Jack Nicholson

Directed by: Roger Corman

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Vincent Price stars in The Raven

Hooray for the Edinburgh International Film Festival for giving me the chance to see the Roger Corman/Vincent Price classic The Raven on the big screen, in all its glorious, glossy Technicolor.  Corman's series of films based (very) loosely around the work of Edgar Allan Poe were the American answer to our home grown Hammer Horror: cheerfully ghoulish movies that recycled the same stars, sets and plots with gay abandon, with the ubiquitous Price as much the face of Corman's output as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were of Hammer.

If anything, The Raven is even more deliberately tongue-in-cheek than its GB counterparts, mixing cheesy 'special' effects, painted backdrops, random comic improvisation and marvellous hammy performances. The eponymous raven is one Dr Bedlo (Peter Lorre), a magician transformed into a bird by the sinister Dr Scarabus (Boris Karloff), who turns to Vincent Price's princely Dr Erasmus Craven for help.

Yes, the plot is very silly, and has little to do with Poe's poem besides pillaging some names and having a raven in it, but the cast list reads like a veritable who's who of Hollywood horror royalty (plus a scarily young Jack Nicholson) and it does give Price the opportunity to intone immortal lines from the verse with far more gravitas than the film deserves. So sit back and enjoy this gorgeous, witty, period piece of a movie in the spirit it was intended: high spirits.

Corman's Poe films are about the only thing left in the horror vaults of Hollywood yet to be resurrected as a teenage scream fest. What's that rapping at my chamber door? Oh look, it's the ghost of Vincent Price; quoth he 'Nevermore'…

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