Wednesday, July 3, 2019

THE RAVEN (1935) Blu-ray review

The Raven (1935) d. Lew Landers (as Louis Frielander) (USA) (61 min)

While screenwriter David Boehm’s potboiler is hardly a faithful adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous literary work (welcome to Hollywood, folks), Universal’s second teaming of its titans of terror, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, still provides a hearty dose of Boston’s favorite literary son in the form of the various torture devices residing in the basements and behind the scenes of polite society.

Though Karloff claims top billing, it’s Lugosi’s show all the way as the Poe-obsessed surgeon Dr. Richard Vollin who is content to recite odes to the lost Lenore in solitude until he is persuaded to operate on Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware), a beautiful young dancer disfigured in an accident, by her rich and powerful father (Samuel Hinds). Vollin reluctantly agrees to the procedure, falling hard for the lass in the process, only to discover that she is engaged to another bright fellow, Dr. Jerry Halden (Lester Matthews).

Driven mad with jealousy, the mad doc hatches a brilliantly sadistic plot when shaggy bearded career criminal Edmond Bateman (Karloff) shows up on his doorstep, begging Vollin to change his unappealing visage. (“Maybe if a man looks ugly he does ugly things.”) Transforming the right side of Bateman’s face into a hideous melted mask with one drooping glassy eye (courtesy of Universal’s resident makeup maestro Jack Pierce), Vollin demands his unfortunate patient do his murderous bidding, starting with the removal of the competition for Jean’s affections.

Whether it’s cackling hysterically at his handiwork (“What torture, what delicious torture… Poe, you are avenged!”) or sonorously intoning Poe’s verses, Lugosi occasionally teeters close to self-parody, but that’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. Karloff is far more grounded and sympathetic, but even he chews the scenery a bit, particularly when he smashes the mirrored glass walls of Vollin’s operating theatre, all the while growling a la Frankenstein’s Monster! (To be fair, he had just completed work on Bride of Frankenstein, released the same year.)

As with The Black Cat before it, the film proves to be an extremely satisfying programmer, concluding – as all good classic horror flicks should – with the two stars at each other’s throats.


NEW 2K scan of the original film elements

NEW audio commentary with author/film historian Gary D. Rhodes

NEW audio commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman

NEW “A Good Game: Karloff and Lugosi at Universal Part Two: The Raven”

Audio Recording: Bela Lugosi reads “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Still Gallery

The Raven is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 (along with The Black Cat, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday) and can be ordered HERE:



  1. Enjoyed your review very much. It's not nearly as good as "The Black Cat," but a fun vehicle for both stars. One nitpicky clarification: I don't think either "The Black Cat" or "The Raven" could be defined as programmers. At least through the end of the '30s and I would say into the early 40s, horror films were still top-tier releases for Universal. Might have played as a programmer (which was a low-budget movie produced to fill out a double-bill -- where label of "B" movies actually came from) on re-release in later decades, but this would have been a major release for the studio in 1935...still riding high on the success of the first wave of Universal horror.

    1. Great comment, and totally agreed! Thanks for such a thoughtful response, JD!