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LiamCasey

"The Raven" (1935)

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Tonight on METv's Svengoolie is 1935's The Raven:

 


 

Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared in eight movies together. My best to worst ranking of the six movies of theirs that I have seen (Gift of Gab (1934) and You'll Find Out (1940) are the two that I haven't) is as follows:

 

The Black Cat (1934)

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

The Body Snatcher (1945)

The Invisible Ray (1936)

The Raven (1935)

Black Friday (1940)

 

Black Friday immediately falls to the bottom of my list because Bela Lugosi as a gangster does not work for me at all and destroys that suspension of disbelief which is a must for these types of movies.

 

The Raven is second from the bottom of my list because it is, for the most part, a lesser replay of the previous year's The Black Cat. The heroine is injured in a motor vehicle accident. Which puts her in the position of becoming the obsession of the lead villain. Who happens to own a house which is more than meets the eye. And, since the heroine's love interest is so ineffectual, the heroine is ultimately saved by the lead villain's associate in the end. An associate who just happened to have had an opportunity to knock off the lead villain earlier but didn't take it. Heck, both movies even had people swap bedrooms. Hard to believe that Universal was running out of fresh ideas for the horror genre so early in the game.

 

But the primary point of comparison between these two movies is with respect to the two leads.

 

As the lead villain in The Black Cat, Boris Karloff's Hjalmar Poelzig is pure evil as a Satanist who is in control of himself and his situation until the end. Although mad by our standards, there is a method to his madness. As the lead villain in The Raven, however, Bela Lugosi's Dr. Richard Vollin is just another scientist who is mad for the sake of being mad. Obviously Mr. Lugosi was getting a jumpstart on the characters that he would portray for Monogram in the 1940s.

 

As the lead villain's associate in The Black Cat, Bela Lugosi's Dr. Vitus Werdergast is an off-kilter delight who is the equal of Poelzig. Although the reason that Werdergast allows himself and his servant to obey Poelzig is never made clear, his hatred for Poelzig is old and deep and well defined. And Werdergast's caring for the heroine is not only tied into that hatred, but that caring has a romantic aspect to it even though it is clear that Werdergast will not step over any boundaries in that regard. As the lead villain's associate in The Raven, however, Boris Karloff's Edmond Bateman is just an escaped hoodlum and a true subordinate whose hatred of the lead villain is, all pun intended, superficial. Just about anyone with the right physical build could have portrayed Bateman. On the plus side, though, Mr. Karloff does does get to reuse his patented Frankenstein's monster growl in this one.

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Tonight on METv's Svengoolie is 1935's The Raven:
 
 
Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared in eight movies together. My best to worst ranking of the six movies of theirs that I have seen (Gift of Gab (1934) and You'll Find Out (1940) are the two that I haven't) is as follows:
 
The Black Cat (1934)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Body Snatcher (1945)
The Invisible Ray (1936)
The Raven (1935)
Black Friday (1940)
 

I like all of those films. I too would place The Black Cat at the top, with Son of Frankenstein third. I like The Body Snatcher but find the direction to be a bit stodgy, as I recall, though good ambience. Not on a par with Universal horror, so I would place it at the bottom of your list.  I really like The Invisible Ray -- perhaps the first film about radiation and scientific responsibility, with a great cast, script, and ambience. I'd place it second. I like The Raven and Black Friday, would more or less leave them where they are, except with The Body Snatcher last. (The other two films, which you haven't seen, are fun, but not in this league).

 

So for me:

 

The Black Cat

The Invisible Ray

Son of Frankenstein

The Raven

Black Friday

The Body Snatcher

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I have to go along with you two guys' ratings, THE BLACK CAT is definitely something special, a real classic. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN has Bela giving a surprising performance as  another "new" character bought into the "Frankenstein" story.  I believe that Karloff was not happy at all with the creature's reduced and uninspiring  role in that film, that may have influenced him into never playing "Frankie" again (along with the painful ordeal that it was to suit up in the costume and Boris was not a young man anymore).  THE RAVEN is more or less standard fare with Bela really hamming it up playing the demented doctor  (maybe he should be mentioned in the recent "psychopath" thread on the boards).  I did take note of Boris' Bateman character doing a little bit of "Frankenstein" parody, certainly that was planned.

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