Friday, July 27, 2012

The End Of The Gothic Era?

The 1960s was revolutionary change in the horror genre, as the subject of the films became increasingly adult, while visually, the impact of sex and violence, led to a more visceral effect. Hammer Studios had initiated this in the late 50s with it's groundbreaking remakes of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy, and would continue with this throughout the next decade. The innocence of the 50s gave way to a darker form of cinema that was both more cerebral in approach, while also being more potent in it's impact.
Having already discussed the best horror films of the 1970s earlier this month, it probably seems bewildering for me to discuss practically the same topic again, however that's not my objective.
For nearly six decades, the dominating form of horror cinema, was the Gothic, which was derived from both classic literature and folklore. This gave way to a more "realistic" kind of horror in the 60s, which in turn, led to the cynical horrors of the 70s, which are still the source of contemporary inspiration, setting the template for modern horror.
When one thinks of this era, films like Psycho(1960), Rosemary's Baby(1968), Night of the Living Dead(1968), The Exorcist(1973) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974) come to mind. These films represented the new guard and established the look and feel of modern horror, but what became of the classic horror? What happened to the archetypes of the genre, such as Frankenstein and Dracula?
Many assume that such characters just became passe' and were skipped over in favor of the new terrors, but that's probably only half of it. History, in some ways, repeated itself.
After, the Second World War, audiences had grown tired of the traditional horrors, finding them quaint and less frightening, especially in comparison to the real horrors of war. That's why the focus in the 50s was largely on radiation fallout and alien invaders, most often interpreted as Communist invaders, while classic monsters were given a backseat. Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein(1948) was the final horror film to feature Dracula, the Wolf Man and The Monster for many years.
A similar thing occurred towards the end of the 60s, as well. Various social problems in the United States and abroad, desensitized viewers into believing in the Gothic creations, much like they had after World War Two.
Vietnam, Civil Rights, the various assassinations and political movements, made the public urge for more realistic and gritty fare, which was heightened by the fall of the Production Code and the rise of the MPAA.
This is where the fall of the classic horror film really began.

The 60s was a boom for monsters, leading to a renaissance in horror culture that has never been seen before or since. Kids flocked to the movies to go see the latest Hammer films and Roger Corman/Vincent Price films, based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Magazines like Famous Monsters catered to this young crowd, celebrating the horror of old, and helping immortalize the names of Karloff and Lugosi. However, the party was stilled in 1969 with the passing of Boris Karloff, who was the very figurehead of the movement. Shortly, before his death, Karloff appeared in a film that was indicative of the rising era in horror and that was, Targets. That film managed to juxtapose the fantasy horror that represented Karloff's world, playing an aging horror actor, very much like himself, with that of a psychopathic killer who uses an arsenal to kill innocent people, climaxing(quite appropriately) in a drive-in movie theater. This was real horror and Karloff felt that what he made paled in comparison and he was right. That same year another violent horror film was unleashed in America that forever changed the genre and the role of the zombie forever. That film was Night of the Living Dead, and it's nihilistic world view, complete with it's entire cast getting killed, led the way for increasingly gruesome fare as the next decade arrived. These films were terrifying films, as well as being representative of the changing times, and the classic horror was finding it difficult to catch up.
Hammer films insisted on continuing their franchises, and were slow to capitalize on the current trends. The studio that helped revive the horror film, along with the Gothic archetypes, was quickly falling by the wayside. New monsters were entering our realm, including mad killers, flesh eating zombies and even, the Devil, himself.

The zombie was originally a more passive character, being featured on the screen as far back as 1932, with the release of White Zombie. These zombies were under the control of a master, usually somebody like Bela Lugosi, and were completely subservient. They had none of the ghoulish tendencies of the later Romero-creations and were often steeped in the folklore of Haiti. By the 70s, the voodoo zombie was largely passe, only appearing in the odd film(Sugar Hill(1974) and the Romero template became the standard. Zombies were forever changed in 1978 with the release of Dawn of the Dead, with it's survivor premise, became the standard for all zombie apocalypse films to follow. Soon, the makeup became more advanced as well, with the usual white makeup with black eyeliner, being dispensed for more extreme makeup, depicting decomposition. This is particularly apparent in the 1979 film, Zombie, a rip-off of Dawn of the Dead, directed by splatter filmmaker, Lucio Fulci. As the 80s loomed, the zombies had become carnivorous and soon virtually all living dead films would focus on the same concept created in 1968, which still is the standard til this day.

The werewolf saw very little action during the decade, often being relegated to cheapie productions, like the kind popularized by Paul Naschy in Spain, depicting a character obviously inspired by the Universal Wolf Man. These films became increasingly silly as the decade went on, with the werewolf fighting Countess Bathory(" The Vampire Woman!"), Dr. Jekyll(which he becomes?!) and even, The Abominable Snowman!
Traditional werewolves also appeared in such films as Moon of the Wolf(1972) and Legend of the Werewolf(1975), which had more than a passing resemblance to Hammer's The Curse of the Werewolf(1961). 
For the most part, the werewolf would not see much change until the 1980s and the arrival of new effects artists, of which the werewolf would benefit the most from. The transformation scenes in The Howling(1980) and An American Werewolf in London(1981) would prove groundbreaking, but would also forever end the era of a "wolf man" which has been largely unseen on the screen, becoming more of a wolf and less man-like with every incarnation of the creature.

The vampire probably went through the most dramatic changes in the decade. Starting off as a grotesque, decaying fiend in Nosferatu(1922), the vampire became a sex symbol with Bela Lugosi in Dracula(1931) and later with Christopher Lee in the Hammer films, but never was it as blatant as in the 70s. By that time, Dark Shadows had been on the air and this introduced the vampire to a largely female audience, who enjoyed the romantic and sensitive side afforded the vampire, which led to later romanticized versions of the Count. The Broadway revival of the Hamilton Deane Dracula, that made Bela Lugosi a star, was reshaped for contemporary sensibilities and released as being far more romantic with Frank Langella in the lead. This was later made into a film in 1979, a big year for the vampire, and now depicted the Count as a "tragic hero" which was far different than what had been originally seen on the screen.
Dracula saw a few straight adaptions, however, including the lamentable 1970 Jess Franco adaption with Christopher Lee, which attempted to be faithful to the novel, as well as a 1977 adaption for the BBC with Louis Jourdan. Jack Palance appeared in a 1973 adaption, produced by Dan Curtis, that attempted to link the Count with Vlad the Impaler, and was fairly successful.
Perhaps, the Dracula story saw the most ridiculous revisionism when Paul Naschy(!) starred as The Count in Count Dracula's Great Love(1973), where the distraught Count actually commits suicide by stake to the heart! Gotta give that Naschy some credit: the man was creative.
The most spectacular version made was the 1979 remake of Nosferatu, made by Werner Herzog, yet even this version created a sympathetic vampire, quite unlike the demon of the earlier film.
Hammer continued with Dracula films during the 70s, but gave way to popular trends of the time, including allowing the Count to walk in swinging 70s London(Dracula A.D. 1972) and even get mixed up with Martial Arts(The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires) but all lacked the sincerity and horror of the previous films and were relative failures.
Far more successful was Count Yorga-Vampire(1970) which depicted a classic depiction of the vampire, set in contemporary times and with an added slice of humor and sadism, that helped inspire many modern horror films. 1972 saw the release of Blacula, the first black vampire, though the film was far more intelligent and seriously made than the somewhat racist title implies. It featured a good lead performance from William Marshall and some sympathy for the title character, cursed by Dracula, himself. It was the bets of several Blaxploitation horror films, most of which are unmentionable, save for laughs.
The most successful modern day adaption to emerge from the decade was the made for TV, The Night Stalker(1971) which focused on an ancient vampire unleashed in Las Vegas, being stalked by an inrepid reporter named Carl Kolchak(Darren McGavin). This was the most successful made for TV film for years and led to a sequel(The Night Strangler) as well as a series.

Sexuality in the horror film had been explored, however subtly, since the 20s, but would become more potent during the liberalized 60s with the release of several steamy horror classics, including Blood and Roses(1960) a film which started a bizarre trend towards "Lesbian-Vampire" films, which must have seemed to be a producer's dream, offering up the right amount of horror and female nudity to ensure a large audience. Hammer really jumped on the bandwagon with the release of The Vampire Lovers in 1970, which starred the beauteous, Ingrid Pitt. This film was supposedly based on Sheridan la Fanu's Carmilla, about a female vampire who preys on teenage girls at a boarding school, though it's doubtful that he would have approved of the soft core shenanigans of this film! This led to two sequels, Lust for a Vampire(1971) and Twins Of Evil(1971). 

The popularity of these films led to a string of other pictures, including some that pushed the envelope for erotic horror as art, particularly, Daughters of Darkness(1971) and the highly sexual Vampyres(1974)
The latter film, focused on the odd theme of sexual dependency and addiction, likening it to vampires in a way, scarcely hinted at in earlier pictures and had a slight philosophic edge, even under all the obvious, exploitation elements on hand.
Perhaps, the most ludicrous of the more erotic vampire films, though I cringe to refer to it as that, is Blood for Dracula(1974) a ridiculous film where Dracula has to move to Italy, because the blood of whores is killing him. Boy, is he in for a surprise. This film combined a high libido with graphic violence(you should see the Count's demise in this) also pushed the envelope for how far the genre could go.
The character of Elizabeth Bathory was also due for revision, appearing as a vampire babe that goes toe to toe with Paul Naschy's werewolf in Werewolf Shadow(1971). Less ludicrous, was when Ingrid Pitt became the Countess for Hammer's Countess Dracula(1971), though she is about all that was commendable about that film, which focused on the Bathory's nude blood baths, which makes sense when you have Ingrid Pitt in the lead. Clever producers also capitalized on this by using Rosabla Neri in a similar fashion in The Devil's Wedding Night(1972), an otherwise lamentable film, save for the gorgeous star and some unintentional hilarity.
It's amazing how far the vampire woman had come. From the creepy school marms of the 1931 Dracula through Hammer's seductresses and Barbara Steele's sexy undead, to the contemporary Playboy version of the vampire. What a long, strange trip it's been!

Dracula and the vampire were not the only ones subjugated to revision. Frankenstein had seen a a resurgence of interest during the 70s, much like Dracula had. The Hammer series only made two films during the decade, one of those attempting to reboot the franchise and starring Ralph Bates as Frankenstein. Horror of Frankenstein(1970) was a remake of the groundbreaking, Curse of Frankenstein(1957) but suffered from an identity crisis, unsure of whether or not it wanted to be parody or straight adaption. Peter Cushing made his last appearance as Baron Frankenstein in Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell(1973). Both films will probably interest Star Wars fans, since the Monster was played both times by Dave Prowse, who later portrayed Darth Vader.
Several adaptions tried to adapt the Mary Shelley novel as written, but with mixed results. Dan Curtis, of Dark Shadows fame, produced his own version with Bo Svenson as the Monster, but the results were mixed and the video production cheapened the effect. Frankenstein(1973) was not as successful as Dracula had been, the same year. Far better was the epic three hour long, Frankenstein: The True Story(1974), which really did not tell the true story, but offered the novel idea of the Monster being created and appearing brutally handsome upon birth, much different than either the novel or any earlier film adaptions. This version also heightened the romantic sweep of the narrative and was far removed from the horror backdrop of previous versions, opting for a more dramatic punch.

The most faithful adaption of the novel appeared in 1976, a Swedish-Irish co-production entitled, Terror of Frankenstein. This film followed the original narrative almost to the letter, much like the next year's BBC adaption of Dracula would. It was a creepy and grimy little film, but was little seen upon it's initial release and never was a big commercial success.
Perhaps, the most successful Frankenstein film of the period was Mel Brook's loving parody of the Universal classics, Young Frankenstein(1974), which showed just how removed audiences were from the Gothic horrors of yore. While, a brilliant comedy and certainly one of the best ever made, the imagery parodied was indicative of how much audience's tastes had changes in the interval years. Most audiences probably missed that this was not meant to mock these films, but acted almost as a love letter to the artistry of James Whale and Boris Karloff and it's fun to see this almost as a continuation of that series.
Other bizarre Frankenstein adaptions appeared, including Flesh For Frankenstein(1973) a ludicrous film that saw a level of depravity, that was not seen in any Frankenstein film, as brother and sister Frankensteins, create new creations to satisfy they're strange sexual desires! And speaking of which, Lady Frankenstein(1972) with babetastic, Rosalba Neri, also has plans for making a monster that will please her in bed. If the theme of Frankenstein was always that of creation through alternate methods, it became blatant in the decade, as the story became more sexual and ridiculous.

Other horror staples saw similar collapse, including the Poe adaptions and the mad science films. Instead of finding material from other great horror writers(paging, H.P. Lovecraft, calling,Albert Machen, paging, Algernon Blackwood...) they became more formulaic and less arty, resulting in mediocrities like Murders in the Rue Morgue(1971). Vincent Price, who had starred in most of these in the 70s, still found good material appearing in the proto-body count films of Dr. Phibes(1971) and Theatre of Blood(1973), the latter where he portrayed a Shakespearean actor who commits revenge on theater critics!
The literary horror front was torn asunder and fewer Poe and Gothic adaptions appeared. Even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was forced to a gender switch with Hammer's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde(1972) which is much better than it sounds. The story did see a "straight" adaption with I,Monster(1970) starring Christopher Lee, which was only moderately successful.
The Phantom of the Opera was largely dormant, though a somewhat brilliant revision arrived in the form of The Phantom of the Paradise(1974) which set the classic story in the age of rock and roll. Directed by Brian DePalma, this was one of the most successful and entertaining modern adaptions of any of the classic horror stories produced that decade and one of the most memorable.

So, what happened to the classic horror film?
The answer is that they simply evolved and adapted to the changing times. Much of what occurred in the 70s would change the look of the genre forever, as increasingly violent and sexual fare took the subtle menace and dread out of many of the classic chillers.
The purpose of this article was to examine the genre and discover the genesis of our current state of Gothic horror. If anything, the end of the 60s really did see the end of an era, as horror became a different animal altogether. It was at once meaner and leaner, giving way to the burgeoning slasher and splatter genres, as well as making the classic monsters more sensitive and romantic, in a way, feminizing the genre, which had been previously dominated by a male audience.
Modern day abortions, such as the Twlight series owe their livelihood and existence to what began in this decade. Films such as Dracula(1979) and TV shows like Dark Shadows, coupled with the books of Anne Rice, can lay the blame for what lie ahead in our current horror state.
These developments, revolutionary in the time, helped weaken the impact of the stories, often bluntly addressing the themes told so subtly decades before. Frankenstein and The Opera Phantom would suffer the most from this weak revision, as both characters always had sympathetic qualities, but were now in danger of being sappy and/or insincere in the emotions, which is certainly true of many current adaptions of the characters. Yet, some filmmakers are smart enough to realize their worth and successful adaptions have been made since, though not in the numbers they should be.
However, as bleak as it may appear, one thing was certain. These creatures were not dead. Through the darkness, a greater appreciation also arose for these classic monsters, which in turn led to serious film and literary criticism and it's because of this pioneering in this era that these stories have the kind of acceptance that they do today. In this, there can be a found a positive side to the revisions and re imaginings of these classic creations, for here they would find new life and in essence, come closer to achieving immortality, of which we knew they had obtained all along.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Poe, You Are Avenged!"

The Raven(1935)
Director: Lew Landers
Cast: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lester Matthews

The Raven is Universal's most riotous and controversial horror film of the 1930s. Lacking the sophistication of the previous, loosely inspired, Poe-adaption, The Black Cat(1934), this film decides to go far over the top, approaching the ghoulish theatrics of the Grand Guignol.
It's the second Karloff and Lugosi film and the one film where Lugosi clearly has the starring role, though the billing still had Karloff billed first. The Raven is not one of the great classics of the golden age of horror, lacking much of the sensitivity and artistry that made the earlier works so compelling(amazingly, this was released the same year as Bride of Frankenstein), though the madcap antics and gleeful, histrionics of Bela Lugosi has ensured this a place in the pantheon of horror essentials. Few films in the actor's career afforded him the opportunity to act with such abandon, creating in the process, one of the cinema's most compelling psychopaths. It also has to be said, that The Raven is a very good time.

The film wastes no time in establishing the plot, as beautiful Jean Thatcher(Irene Ware) drives recklessly down a road in a storm and proceeds to crash through a "Caution" sign and over a cliff! She's in critical condition(though she looks fine) and needs immediate aid. No one is qualified to save her, except Dr. Richard Vollin(Bela Lugosi) who receives a wonderful introduction, as he recites Poe's "The Raven" for a guest. Vollin is a Poe fanatic, who apparently has recreated many of the author's famous torture devices and installed them in his basement. He has no compassion for humanity and is about as arrogant as they come, like when Judge Thatcher(Samuel S. Hinds) arrives and demands that he help save his daughter. Vollin replies that death is different to him, however when he discovers that all the other doctors have said that he is the only one that can help, he immediately goes to perform the surgery.
During the surgery, he gets an eyeful of Jean and realizes that she's a babe and falls in love. Soon she is back at his apartment, lounging seductively on a couch, while he plays(what else?) Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, while he makes a move on Jean. I just love how Jean looks up to him and says that he's like more than a man, and Vollin replies with "A God?" He has all the makings of a megalomaniac, this one.
Jean invites Vollin to see her perform "The Raven" as interpretive dance theater(?) and it's a silly spectacle that makes little sense, though Vollin is certainly appreciate, much to the Judge's displeasure, who clearly does not relish the way the doctor has been eyeing his daughter. After the show, as everyone applauds her performance, Vollin kisses her hand and says, "Whom the angels call Lenore..."
Later that night, the Judge arrives and voices his displeasure and Vollin flips out, even crushing a test tube in his hand. He warns the Judge about the consequences if he is not allowed to see Jean, even if she is already engaged to "young" Dr. Jerry Halden(Lester Matthews, who portrayed a similar leading man that year in Universal's Werewolf of London).
Finally, Mr. Karloff arrives to the show, wearing a thick beard and going by the name of Bateman, portraying a man who is an escaped convict. He seeks aid from Vollin, because he heard he is a very talented surgeon. They're first scene together is a hoot, playing like a comedy as sympathetic, restrained Karloff plays it straight to Lugosi's Vollin, who is anything but restrained. It's hard not to laugh, when Karloff delivers a touching monologue about his youth, only to have Lugosi reply, "Why are you telling me this? Am I interested in your life story?"
Or when Lugosi accuses Karloff of murdering a bank teller with an a acetylene torch, and Karloff replies, matter of factly, "Well, sometimes you can't help things like that."
The comedy continues as Vollin gets a brainstorm and invites Bateman down to his lair, where he performs ten minute surgery(!) to control his nerves and change his face. When Bateman's new face is revealed(sans beard) he looks ridiculous. It's easily Jack Pierce's worst makeup job, though it's kind of fun I suppose. Karloff now sports a giant, bulging cardboard eye and his skin is wrinkled like that of The Mummy. It's scientifically improbable, but much of this script is not exactly probable, so there's few quibbles.
Karloff does have an effective scene, where he is surrounded by mirrors and proceeds to shoot each one with his revolver as he views his new, horrible visage. It's the most famous scene in the movie, as Lugosi cackles from above, looking like a demented gargoyle and Karloff throws his gun in anger, even growling like the Frankenstein Monster!

After all that, Vollin blackmails Bateman into assisting him with a diabolic scheme, telling him that only if he obeys, will he then fix his face. Vollin invites over Jean and Jerry, along with some other people, I guess to keep up appearances. There's some sad excuses for comedy relief, mainly directed towards Ian Wolfe's character and his supposed resemblance to a horse. It's amusing to see that Vollin has this neat horse race game in his home, probably the only non-torturous device he owns. Judge Thatcher arrives to dissuade Jean and Jerry from staying, but they don't listen, even when Vollin has a very telling explanation of Poe's madness, that clearly is indicative of his own.
Bateman plays his manservant and everybody is pretty rude to him, even when it is explained that he was a soldier wounded in battle. These people have no manners, including Col. Bertram Grant(Spencer Charters) who proposes that everyone goes to bed, even though it's not his house. This sets up Vollin's plans perfectly and he shows Bateman his devices of torture, though he gives too thorough an instruction of his swinging pendulum, and this causes him to be trapped by Bateman, except that he still needs the doctor to change his features. Oh well, better luck next time, Bateman.
The film gets just plain crazy at this point, as Bateman abducts the Judge from his room and has him tied to the pendulum table, where he is called mad by the Judge, only to have Lugosi reply with that priceless line, "I'm the sanest man that ever lived!"
Vollin even devised Jean's room to be an elevator, so the whole thing lowers to the dungeon and she is trapped. The rest of the guests, including Jerry, go to the rescue, but are trapped. Jerry and Jean are forced into a room, where the walls come together and this prompts Vollin to exclaim how wonderful his torturous schemes are by proclaiming enthusiastically, "Poe! You are avenged!"
Bateman can't just see pretty Jean get killed though and intervenes, despite Vollin warning him that he will not correct the surgery. Bateman releases them and Vollin shoots, but this does not stop Bateman from hauling Vollin into the closing room and killing him, in one of the most gruesome deaths imaginable.
Everyone is saved, and as Jerry and Jean drive off, they ponder the sacrifice that Bateman made for them. Jerry puts his arm around Jean and she says that "he's the Raven now, " whatever that means!

The Raven is an often ludicrous film, filled with many contrivances and plot holes to make even the most passive viewer, resistant. However, it's also such a damn enjoyable film that these are also as often overlooked. Horror fans are tough on this one and I can understand why. It's not as intellectual as some of the other films, lacking the social subtext and sensitivity that made the best horror films of the decade. What it succeeds at is moving along at a brisk pace(the film runs barely over an hour) and throwing in just about everything, but the kitchen sink.
Bela Lugosi gives it his all in this film, in what appears to be a dry-run for the later insanity he displayed in his works with Ed Wood. It's really over the top and hammy, but in all fairness, how else was he to approach such a part? He does the most with what he's handed and makes for a great villain, and it's fun to watch him get increasingly more insane as the film moves along, til the full blown madness of the film's conclusion, along the most memorable of the golden age. For my money, this is the Lugosi film, besides Dracula, that appears to be the most quotable, with an endless number of fun and darkly humorous mutterings. Lugosi's declaration of being "the sanest man in the world" or professing his love for torture("I like torture!") almost never fail to bring down the house. It's odd comparing this to the far subtler and restrained work that he delivered in The Black Cat(1934), but it's performances like this that the actor has become immortal for. While i'm sure that films like The Raven have served as ammunition for his detractors, it's a fun and wickedly exciting portrayal that ranks among the greatest in the cinema's hall of great movie psychopaths, and besides his turn as Dr. Mirakle in Murders in the Rue Morgue(1932), his finest turn as a mad doctor, a role he played many times over the course of his career.

Karloff does not fair as well in this film, the way he did in The Black Cat. Here he is reduced to little more than a supporting role, though he makes the most of what he is given. It's interesting to compare the understated nature of Karloff's role with that of Lugosi, and to study how different each approach is. Karloff plays Bateman with sympathy and is yet again, buried under the makeup of Jack Pierce, though the effect is not as successful as early ventures. Karloff actually has the best scene in the film with the mirror sequence, a well shot and eerily, dramatic moment in a film filled with the broadest of theatrical terrors. It's overall not a great role for the actor, though, and he is little more than a henchman, though it's interesting to compare this to The Invisible Ray(1936), where Karloff takes the lead and delivers a very hammy performance, out of character, and Lugosi delivers the straight, dramatic goods in a heroic turn. I wonder if that was intentional?
The rest of the cast perform admirably, with Samuel S. Hinds always a professional in another doting father role, as he was wont to play throughout the 30s. Lester Matthews is merely passable in the leading man department, though he was middle-aged and much less youthful, than say, David Manners, who usually got such parts.
Irene Ware is probably one of the sexiest of the 30s heroines, right up there with Frances Drake, another exotic brunette, who would appear as Karloff's wife in The Invisible Ray, as well as Colin Clive's wife in Mad Love(1935). We are never quite sure if there is some sort of sexual attraction between her character and Lugosi's and I wish they had made that clearer. Her dance, while bizarre and even comical, has a slight erotic edge, punctuated by Lugosi's reactions, which indicate that he is going through a sort of ecstasy. With the already apparent undercurrent of sadomasochism that runs through this film, one has to wonder how this may have played if it had been filmed before the Production Code!
Still, what the filmmakers got away with, was plenty. Universal was already in trouble because of Bride of Frankenstein, and soon they found themselves in real hot water because of this one, too. The Raven, with it's love for torture and sadism, found itself as the target of the censors and it was banned outright in Great Britain, being instrumental in the embargo on horror films that was passed in that country in 1937.

The Raven is an enjoyable diversion from the golden age, featuring the two greatest stars of the classic horror film, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. It's far from the best that the genre has to offer, especially during the golden age in which it was produced, but it is a fun and wildly delirious little chiller with a wonderfully ripe performance from Bela Lugosi, at his horrific best. And considering you have Karloff along to add to the chills, it's difficult to pass this one up. Don't expect too much and you might enjoy this film. It certainly does not avenge Poe, in fact, very little of the great writer appears on the screen, but the spirit of classic horror lurks within. You don't have to like torture, nor proclaim to be the sanest man in the world, in defense of enjoying this vintage chiller from Hollywood's finest era of horror.