The Raven [1963] – [thoughts + spoilers]


Film: The Raven [1963]

Setting: Medieval California

Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, a young Jack Nicholson, not John Cusack

Director: Roger Corman

Plot: A magician, Craven, sits in his castle and sketches out ravens looking through telescopes using hand gestures to pass the time. Awkward sentence. I mean, Craven uses hand gestures, not the raven. There is no raven, just a magical, purple outline of one. Craven then hears a noise, gets up, goes to the coffin containing his dead wife, Lenore, which has been lying matter-of-factly in the hallway for the last two years, and says, ‘come back to me, Lenore.’ His daughter interrupts and tells him to stop hanging around the coffin so much, to which he replies, ‘you are young, you don’t understand grief…and neither do I, apparently, as I seem strangely joyful for most of this movie.’

Then Craven goes back to his study alone and hears more noises. A real raven turns up, follows the text of the Poe story for a few minutes then starts speaking in the voice of Peter Lorre. He asks the magician to return him to human form so he can get revenge on Scarabus, the magician who cast the raven spell on him. Craven does as he asks, but tells him not to go back to Scarabus’ castle as his dad told him Scarabus was a dick. Lorre asks him to come along, to protect him, but Craven says no, he’s too busy fondling the corpse of his wife magically sketching purple ravens in his study. Lorre says, wait, I saw your wife in Scarabus’ castle, she’s alive. Craven relents for the sake of plot and the two of them set off for the castle, taking the daughter and Jack Nicholson with them.

Luckily the castle is about five minutes away by horse and carriage, so it’s a quick transition. They arrive, Scarabus greets them, acts nice during dinner then checks his watch and turns into the kind of Boris Karloff we can relate to i.e. menacing, sleazy, fierce.

Subplot: Craven’s dead wife fakes her death, because life with a magician is tedious, and moves in with another magician, Scarabus, a psychopath who wants to have sex with her, but is somehow put off for two years without becoming violent. Scarabus also seems to sit around his castle all day doing not very much, but Lenore doesn’t seem to notice the hypocrisy of her actions.

Theme: Don’t trust smiling Boris Karloffs. Don’t spend all day in your castle without pleasuring your sociopathic wife. Don’t look directly at Peter Lorre. Continue reading