THE RAVEN (1935)

THE RAVEN . KARLOFF LUGOSI 1935 LOBBY CARDTHE RAVEN 1935 POSTER. KARLOFF LUGOSI

The Raven (1935) marks the second teaming of Universal’s dual horror stars: Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. It is also downright mortifying  in its pedestrianism. Director Lew Landers simply did not have the sense of style or vision with which Edgar G. Ulmer imbued The Black Cat (1934) .

THE RAVEN (1935) BELA LUGOSI lobby card

Worse, Landers lacked the foresight or directorial strength to shape or reign in Lugosi’s performance. Lugosi’s overacting is both the key to that which remains most fascinating about The Raven and, paradoxically, sinks the film into abject parody. It was Lugosi’s deliriously sadistic antics here which inspired the two-year UK ban on horror films. The ban significantly hurt Lugosi, causing his salary stock, never good to begin, to plummet. Seeing The Raven today through a decidedly more jaded contemporary lens, one wonders what all the fuss was about.  Still, one can easily imagine why 1935 audiences were nonplussed regarding the Hungarian ham.

THE RAVEN 1935 PROMOS INCLUDING LOBBY CARD

As the Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed, stark staring mad Dr. Vollin, Lugosi melodramatically throws up his arms, laughs maniacally, and screams: “Poe, you are avenged!” It plays like a scene out of a wretched comic book, with a Transylvanian Marx Brother in the lead role. The reason for Vollin’s madness is his unrequited love of the prettified Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware), which never seems feasible.  In gratitude for Vollin saving her life, Jean does a Poe-inspired ballet for him, but the dance is as dull as she is. Earlier, Vollin compares himself to a god, and that is ultimately the nagging problem with Lugosi’s screen persona. Karloff inspires us to identify with his suffering and outsider status: Lugosi, with few exceptions, distances himself from his audience. Continue reading “THE RAVEN (1935)”