Thursday, November 20, 2014

THE RAVEN (1963) Blu-ray Review

The Raven (1963) d. Roger Corman (USA)

A childhood fave that continues to hold up half a century later, thanks to the game comic performances from screen scream veterans Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre. Concerned that they might be repeating themselves, Corman and screenwriter Richard Matheson opted to spin the dark and forlorn premise of Poe’s best-known poem into an extravagant slapstick romp involving quarreling wizards, magic spells, duplicitous wives, and warnings from beyond the grave.

A young Jack Nicholson is also on hand, and his hilarious interplay with onscreen patriarch Lorre provides many of the biggest laughs. Price is clearly in his element, smirking and mugging away, but Karloff’s subtler facial expressions and gestures often manage to upstage both of his hammier co-stars.

Lovely Hazel Court isn’t given as much to do as Price’s not-so-much-lost-as-loose Lenore, but she makes the most of her vain and self-serving temptress, while blonde and bland Olive Sturgess is serviceable as the requisite ingĂ©nue. The frothy blast concludes with a memorable wizards’ duel, each jousting spell more charming than the previous, and brought to vivid realization by effects man Pat Dinga.

The Raven is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their excellent The Vincent Price Collection II, with supplements that include interviews with Matheson and Corman (previously recorded for the MGM DVD release), both of whom speak with great affection for this entertaining trifle, as well as a still gallery, theatrical trailer, and a vintage intro / wrap-up from Price from when he hosted an Iowa public television showcase of his films in the 1980s.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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