Film Review – THE RAVEN (1935)

THE RAVEN (1935, USA, 61m, PG) ***½
Crime, Horror
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Lew Landers; w. David Boehm (based on the poem by Edgar Allan Poe); exec pr. Stanley Bergerman (uncredited); ph. Charles J. Stumar (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Clifford Vaughan; ed. Albert Akst; ad. Albert S. D’Agostino.
cast: Boris Karloff (Edmond Bateman), Bela Lugosi (Dr. Richard Vollin), Lester Matthews (Dr. Jerry Holden), Irene Ware (Jean Thatcher), Samuel S. Hinds (Judge Thatcher), Spencer Charters (Col. Bertram Grant), Inez Courtney (Mary Burns), Ian Wolfe (Geoffrey “Pinky”), Maidel Turner (Harriet).
Lugosi plays a spurned surgeon who seeks revenge using Edgar Allan Poe’s devices of torture and a hideously disfigured Karloff. Lugosi gives a commanding interpretation of madness in this lean horror that makes up in enthusiastic performances what it lacks in the sophistication and black humour that a director like James Whale would have brought to the proceedings. Karloff makes a late entrance and once again gives a strong physical performance mixing both pathos and threat. Ware makes a sparkling, if screechy, heroine and the final act in Lugosi’s chamber of horrors is enjoyably tense.

Film Review – THE BLACK CAT (1934)

THE BLACK CAT (1934, USA, 65m, PG) ***½
Crime, Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Edgar G. Ulmer; w. Peter Ruric (based on a story by Edgar G. Ulmer & Peter Ruric and suggested by a story by Edgar Allan Poe); pr. Carl Laemmle Jr. (uncredited); ph. John J. Mescall (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Heinz Roemheld; ed. Ray Curtiss; ad. Charles D. Hall.
cast: Boris Karloff (Hjalmar Poelzig), Bela Lugosi (Dr. Vitus Werdegast), David Manners (Peter Alison), Julie Bishop (Joan Alison (as Jacqueline Wells)), Egon Brecher (The Majordomo), Harry Cording (Thamal), Lucille Lund (Karen), Henry Armetta (The Sergeant), Albert Conti (The Lieutenant).
Dark and macabre story sees Manners and Bishop as a newlywed couple who share their train coach with Dr Vitus (Lugosi), a psychiatrist. Later, they share a bus that crashes in a storm and they move to the fortress-like home of the sinister Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff). This effective horror thriller suffers from a loose script and uneven direction but is heightened by the expert performances of Karloff and Lugosi. Mescall’s shadowy photography and Hall’s stylish production design add to the atmosphere. Watch out for John Carradine as the organist during the cult ritual. Aka: THE HOUSE OF DOOM; THE VANISHING BODY.