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  • Writer's pictureMr. Pat

The Raven

I don't get Notre Dame, man. Bad coaching cost them against OSU, horrible coaching cost them big time against Louisville and then they blew out USC. Granted, the Trojans can't be bothered to play defense, I was shocked at how bad ND made Caleb Williams look. Usually, players win their Heisman after a game against ND, it's not often a player loses it! I have no way to segue seamlessly, so just let's talk about...

The Raven (1935)

I like doing the occasional classic horror movie because you can find a lot of good ones out there. Too many people see the date or the black and white and immediately skip it. That's a shame because one thing these movies do exceptionally well is create atmosphere. The weather and the sets are always striking and have a bit of personality of their own. The filmmakers in the Golden Age didn't have the technology that we have now so they made up for it in other ways. Movies like Frankenstein, The Wolfman and Dracula are so rich in atmosphere and they do a lot of clever things to hide the lack of technology at their disposal. You really ought to watch them.

With that said, The Raven is not as good as I'd hoped. Bela Lugosi stars as a brilliant surgeon with a fascination with Edgar Allan Poe and a lack of empathy towards people. He's fine with retirement until a judge comes to his house to beg Lugosi to perform surgery on his daughter who had just been in an accident. Lugosi keeps refusing until the judge appeals to his vanity. And then, sometime during the operation, he falls in love with the girl and ends up saving her life.

Her father, a judge, doesn't like it. His daughter is already engaged and he tries to shut down the surgeon's fantasy before it goes too far. Lugosi does not like that one bit. By chance, an escaped bank robber, played by Boris Karloff, comes to Lugosi for an operation to change his face. Lugosi says he'll do it only if Karloff kills some folk for him. Karloff says he's not about that life anymore. Lugosi says he'll do it but then forces Karloff's hand by paralyzing half of his face and will only undo his work if Karloff helps him. Lugosi then comes up with a plan to kill those standing in the way of his obsession. His genius plan involves killing them off with torture objects from Poe's short stories.

It's a straightforward madness story, but I expected more. I mean, you have Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the same movie! Those are two of the biggest names in horror history! As an aside, I haven't seen or even scratched the surface of their filmography, but I've never understood why Karloff was such a bigger star than Lugosi. In this movie, Karloff made double the money and he had top billing despite Lugosi being the star and Karloff spending a lot of the movie grunting. In most of the Karloff films I've seen he barely speaks and he has mostly played a monster or a heavy, but everyone loved him. I wonder if the thick accent had prevented Lugosi from truly reaching the heights where I think he should have.

I like the idea behind the movie. There's a lot they could do with a mad surgeon who has an unhealthy obsession with one of horror's best writers, but it doesn't do much with its premise. You see the pendulum from "Pit and the Pendulum," and a room that crushes people, but that's it. I'm surprised they didn't go with Poe's scariest story and have him try to wall someone in, but alas. That main draw, and why I picked to watch it, was seeing those two horror icons in the same movie together. They starred in eight movies together and I think I need to check some more out because this one didn't scratch the itch. Speaking of things I enjoyed, I love the overacting you see in these older movies. It's always funny seeing people react like a bomb went off during tense scenes. In these really old movies, cinema was still a bit new, so a lot of these actors and actresses came from the stage so everything they do is exaggerated. It's funny seeing them stumble around and make the most over-the-top facial reactions when things start going wrong. It's OK, it's short and inoffensive but it's not something you'll want to watch more than once.

5 Dr. Chainsaws!

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