Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 28th, 2014
BluRay released: March 9th, 2015
Approximate running times: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £13.99 (UK)
Synopsis: A magician named Bedlo has been turned into a Raven. So he enlists the help of a former sorcerer named Craven to bring him back to his human form. Shortly thereafter Craven is lured into a duel to the death by an unscrupulous sorcerer named Scarabus.
The Raven was directed by Roger Corman who would go onto direct seven more films that were adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Well technically six more, since The Haunted Place is a Poe adaption in name only and story has been adapted from a story written by H. P. Lovecraft.
Key collaborators on The Raven include screenwriter Richard Matheson (‘The Twilight Zone’, I am Legend), Composer Les Baxter (Black Sabbath, Baron Blood) and cinematographer Floyd Crosby a frequent collaborator of Roger Corman’s.
By the time that Roger Corman got to The Raven, his fifth foray into the world of Edgar Allan Poe. He had already recycled many times over the things that original inspired him to adapt Poe in the first place. Fortunately Corman was never a filmmaker who rested on his laurels and to renew his interest in the Poe series he would give it a slight makeover. Where the previous Poe films relied heavily on atmosphere, this latest adaptation would put a humorous spin on subject matter that originated in the realm of the macabre. For many who had become fond of the previous Poe films, this tongue and cheek approach to the subject matter at hand was a bitter pill. And it should not come as surprise that this film that continues to be the most divisive out of Corman’s eight Poe films.
Narrative wise, outside of the film’s opening sequence where the character named Bedlo arrives at Craven’s home in the form of a Raven. This is essentially the extent of Poe’s influence on the film and pretty much all that follows this opening sequence is an entity unto its own. And though there have been countless other films that have also featured magicians / sorcerers. The magic performed in this film requires a much larger leap of faith, then one would expect considering similar themed subject matter. With that being said, this added level of absurdity lends itself effortlessly to the humor that runs deep throughout this film. In fact one could easily argue that the reason why said humor works as well as it does is because how outlandish some of the things that are which occur in this film.
Though all the Poe films, including this film all feature first rate visuals. It is the performances in this film that are ultimately going to sell you on this film. And once again Vincent Price is featured in a prominent role and this time around he portrays a retired sorcerer named Craven. With the other two prominent roles being Peter Lorre (M, Mad Love) in the role Bedlo and Boris Karloff (Black Sabbath) in the role of Scarabus, the arch nemesis of Craven. And of these three performances Peter Lorre steals the show as he delivers a delirious performance that features the funniest lines of dialog. Also the scenes he has with Jack Nicholson (Chinatown) in the role of Bedlo’s son, is without a doubt the most entertaining as they have a tremendous amount of chemistry. With Price and Karloff’s moment to shine come in the form of a sorcerers duel to the death, which occurs near the end of the film.
The Raven comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in superb shape, as colors look nicely saturated, flesh tones look accurate, details look crisp and black levels look consistently great throughout. Grain look healthy and natural throughout, there are no issues with DNR or compression. Overall another solid transfer from Arrow Video that is on par with their transfer for their other Vincent Price releases.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM Mono mix in English and an Isolated Music and Effects Track. The audio sounds clean, clear and balanced throughout. Range wise though things sound rather limited and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. This releases second audio track a music and effects track is much welcomed addition. Also included with this release is removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include a stills & poster gallery, promotional record (5 minutes 41 seconds), a trailer for the film (2 minutes 27 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a short film titled ‘The Trick’ about rival magicians directed by Rob Green (12 minutes 19 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), interviews with director Roger Corman (8 minutes 11 seconds – 1080 Progressive) and screenwriter Richard Matheson (6 minutes 45 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and a documentary about actor Peter Lorre titled ‘Peter Lorre: The Double Face’ (61 minutes 21 seconds – 1080 Progressive, in German with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in Roger Corman’s interview include transforming The Raven poem into a full length film and adding comedy tone to the subject matter, how they recycled the sets from previous Poe films, the cast and improvising scenes, how they achieved a few of the special effects and how The Raven is one of his favorite films. Topics discussed in Richard Matheson’s interview include his contributions to the adaption most notably wanting to make the subject matter a comedy, the cast and his thoughts on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Peter Lorre documentary is a well-rounded piece that covers his entire career.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and content pertaining to The Raven in the limited edition 200-page collector’s book includes original archive stills, cast & crew info, an essay titled ‘Comedy and Karloff’ written by Vic Pratt, an excerpt written by Vincent Price from the chapter ‘Ghoul Days’ from the book ‘Vincent Price, His Movies, His Plays, His Life’, David De Valle’s text based interview with Roger Corman titled ‘Roger Corman: Better to be on the Set Than in the Office’, information about the transfer, information about the short film The Trick and a comic book adaptation for The Raven.
The Raven is also part of a box set entitled Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales which also includes the following films, The Fall of House of Usher, The Pit and The Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Haunted Palace and The Tomb of Ligeia. Contents of this box set also include a limited edition 200-page collector’s book containing new writing on all films, an interview with Roger Corman, extracts from Vincent Price’s autobiography and full reproductions of tie-in comic books for Tales of Terror, The Raven and The Tomb of Ligeia originally published in the sixties. Overall The Raven gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.
Note: The Raven is currently only available via Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales and a stand-alone Blu-Ray on March 9th, 2015.