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The Raven (1963)

By Andy Markowitz | Posted

Before settling in for a Halloween-night meal of ghost stories and slasher flicks, make an aperitif of this slight delight from low-budget legend Roger Corman. Not so much adapted from the Poe poem as suggested by it, this Gothic pastiche doesn't have a scary bone in its body, offering instead a witty script by fantasy/sci-fi stalwart Richard Matheson and a classic cast playing it with just the right mix of relish and restraint. Pining for his late wife Lenore in his moldering manse, sorcerer Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) hears a tap-tap-tapping at his chamber door; in flies a talking raven that, after some spell-breaking, turns out to be cranky conjuror Bedlo (Peter Lorre), who'd been shape-shifted by top-dog wizard Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). When Bedlo swears he spotted Lenore at Scarabus' place, they're off for a confrontation that climaxes with a cleverly loopy magic duel. The Raven tweaks creaky-old-castle conventions (Bedlo upon entering Craven's cobwebby family crypt: "Hard place to keep clean, huh?"), and the old-pro stars (joined by a baby-faced Jack Nicholson as Bedlo's son) have a ball feeling their spoofy oats, with Lorre in particular at his muttering, misanthropic best.

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