A genius surgeon called Vollin is approached by Judge Thatcher
and pleaded with to treat his beautiful daughter Jean, who
has suffered a car accident and is in a coma, close to death.
After some persuasion the retired specialist agrees. The operation
is successful and, after she recovers, Vollin is invited to
the theatre to enjoy her professional dancing performance,
where he soon becomes infatuated. Witnessing his advances,
Judge Thatcher warns Vollin away from Jean, who is bethroather
to another man. When an escaped criminal called Bateman tries
to threaten Vollin into changing his features, he purposefully
makes the man hideously ugly, using emotional blackmail to
get the man to do his bidding in exchange for improving his
looks again. Vollin then invites all those involved to his
house as guests for the evening. Obsessed with the tales of
Edgar Allan Poe and in particular the poem The Raven,
he has constructed a dungeon of various torture devices and
has surprises in store for his guests...
Raven was said to have been made for the purpose of reuniting
Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi for another outing because of
the success of The
The truth is this film is considerably better than its predecessor.
Although Karloff's role as Bateman is more than satisfactory,
it's Lugosi who really shines here. His gentlemanly but sinister
mannerisms endear you to his character of Vollin, particularly
when faced with a handful of pompous toffs. You almost want
him to succeed in dispatching Thatcher with a live re-enactment
of Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum swinging blade.
The Raven was made in 1935, it is tightly scripted
and well-paced. It motors along, tells its tale in an hour
and gets out before you can even think about becoming bored
with the proceedings. I've always hated studio-bound driving
scenes with rear window projections, and Karloff's twisted
features make-up doesn't bear close scrutiny, but why worry
about these when there is so much more to appreciate. There
are a couple of highly atmospheric renditions of the opening
verses of Poe's long poem The Raven, one in Vollin's
study and one in the theatre as Jean dances.
are some nice moments in the latter part of the film: the
room which turns into a prison and lowers like an elevator,
the shrinking room, and the door with nothing behind it -
to name but a few. The music is also a little less insistent
in this one, although there are some sequences reused from
The Black Cat's score.