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Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 - The Raven Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Universal Horror Collection Volume 1 Large

Directed by Lew Landers (as Louis Friedlander)
Written by David Boehm (based on a poem by Edgar Allan Poe)
1935, 61 minutes, Not Rated

Starring:
Boris Karloff as Edmond Bateman (as Karloff)
Bela Lugosi as Dr. Richard Vollin
Lester Matthews as Dr. Jerry Halden
Irene Ware as Jean Thatcher
Samuel S. Hinds as Judge Thatcher

Universal Horror Collection Vol 1 09 Universal Horror Collection Vol 1 10

Review:

Dr. Richard Vollin is a retired surgeon obsessed with the works of Edgar Allan Poe. He was the best man in his field and when a young woman suffers trauma in an auto accident, her father begs Vollin to operate. He reluctantly agrees and following her recovery becomes infatuated with her beauty. Her father, Judge Thatcher, doesn’t like the way the doctor looks at his daughter and warns him to stay away. Vollin’s Poe fascination has led him to construct many torture devices written about in the stories including a room with moveable walls and a giant pendulum suspended over a table. Vollin employs the services of Edmond Bateman, a known criminal whom he disguises through facial surgery and orders to help eliminate the obstacles between him and the girl.

Following the success of The Black Cat the previous year, Karloff and Lugosi return to the screen together in The Raven, another tale inspired nominally by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. This time the roles are reversed and it is Lugosi who takes the lead as the demented Dr. Vollin. He oozes menace as he threatens to destroy the lives of those around him in his twisted pursuit of love. Karloff is reduced to the smaller supporting role of the criminal Bateman, but still receives top billing in the cast list. Both men give solid performances and are equally diabolical in behavior. Despite a violent past, Karloff’s character is the more sympathetic of the two and even though he does terrible things, audiences remain firmly on his side in the final conflict.

The Raven was another advance in what was permitted by the film censorship board with medical disfigurements, torture and sadism. The picture led to a temporary ban on horror movies in the UK, but performed well at the box office domestically. The connection to Poe’s work is a little more apparent in this movie compared to The Black Cat, which only borrowed the title. Readings of the famous poem by Lugosi and a sequence featuring interpretive dance place the poet front and center in this dark tale. While not as mean-spirited as its predecessor, this film contains many disturbing elements and some decent moments of suspense in the final act. The plot is a little thin, but the performances from Karloff and Lugosi make this one another winner.

Universal Horror Collection Vol 1 11 Universal Horror Collection Vol 1 12

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