Monday, March 19, 2007

The Raven (1935)

The Raven (1935) directed by Lew Landers, starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

Bela Lugosi plays Dr Vollin, a respected surgeon who is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe and has his own torture chamber in his cellar. One night the daughter of a local judge (Irene Ware) is injured in a car accident and Vollin is called to rescue her. After saving her life Vollin falls in love with the girl, although she already has a much younger fiancĂ©. Quickly Dr Vollin grows bitter (and mad), and starts to plot revenge on the girl and her family. By an accident, an escaped killer Edmond Bateman (Boris Karloff) stumbles to Dr Vollin’s house, and Vollin quickly makes him his assistant by evil manipulation.

Following the superior The Black Cat, this was the second Universal Studios Poe adaptation where Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are paired against each other. This time Bela Lugosi gets to be the dominating arch-villain and Karloff plays the slightly less evil character. Towards the end of the movie Lugosi grows into a complete madman (see picture below) whereas Karloff gains the sympathy of the audience.

Karloff plays Edward Bateman as a simpleminded but deep down good natured man who is tired of criminal life. He comes to Lugosi wanting him to change his appearance so he can hide from the police. Lugosi however tries to blackmail him into doing torture and killing for him. Karloff responds desperately “I don’t want to get into no more trouble. Don’t ask me to do this job for you, Doc. I don’t want to do them things no more.”

Then he gives Lugosi an idea by his thoughtful pondering; “I’ll tell you something Doc. Ever since I was born, everybody looks at me and says, “You’re ugly”. Makes me feel mean. … maybe because I look ugly, maybe if a man looks ugly he does ugly things.”

Lugosi gets a devilish idea and he agrees to make the operation for Karloff. He cheats Karloff and horribly mutilates his face, disfiguring his mouth so that his speech now reminds that of the Frankenstein creature. Now Lugosi has control over Karloff, by promising to later fix his face he gets Karloff to do the needed dirty work.

While Karloff makes a better role performance, The Raven is still Lugosi’s movie. He is on screen in most of the scenes, while Karloff is more of a strong supporting character. This time Lugosi also gets to play the pipe organs (like Karloff had done in The Black Cat). After Lugosi has played the organs for Irene Ware, she states “You’re not only a great surgeon, but a great musician, too. Extraordinary man. You’re almost not a man. Almost…” Lugosi completes her sentence; “A god? … A god with the taint of human emotions...

It is a great pleasure to see Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi sharing the screen, and while the movie itself is not much above the average, this does offer some of the best sequences between these two legends of horror. The Raven can definitely be recommended for all fans of these two actors.

Boris Karloff also appeared in the 1963 Roger Corman version of The Raven (neither of these films have much to do with the actual poem, though).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

British Intelligence (1940)

I saw this movie last night. British Intelligence is a World War I spy thriller from Warner Brothers, based on a long running play. Boris Karloff appears as a butler who has a terrible scar on his face and walks with a limp. Is he just a normal butler, A German agent, A British Double agent or something else?

This is a very enjoyable movie and better than most similiar spy thrillers made with small budgets at the time (1940). There are more plot twists and surprises packed to the 61 minute running time than there are in many modern thrillers, and it also includes a few really good dramatic scenes for Karloff and the female lead Margaret Lindsay. The movie does end to a rather cheesy propaganda speech, which was typical at the time.

Even though this is not a horror movie, Boris Karloff manages to look extremely creepy and menacing. Just check out the scenes at nighttime where Karloff is just standing behind a door, with his simple but grisly makeup, the shadows and his facial expression creating a truly creepy expression. Karloff’s performance as the gentle (but scary looking) French butler / possible spy (I don’t want to spoil anything) is flawless.

A good movie, recommended viewing, and its available quite cheap on various dvd sets.

British Intelligence (1940) on Amazon

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Dwight Frye, Claude Rains, George Zucco. These are the names that bring a smile to the face of any fan of classic horror movies. This blog is dedicated to all these great legends of the horror genre and more.

Here you will finds news, pictures, reviews, links, clips and other material relating to these actors and their movies.