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But What Would Poe Think?

Spoiler Alert! I’m going to tell the plot and I may give away a couple of the best jokes.

I thought The Raven (1963) had it all: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre star. Roger Corman directed. And it’s based, or rather “inspired by” Edgar Allen Poe. This movie is going to rock! I thought, as I set my DVR.

Well, the movie does rock, but not quite in the way I expected it to. It starts out creepy enough: the camera pans through a gloomy castle while Price’s inimitable voice intones the poem “The Raven” by Poe. A big, scary black bird appears on cue. When Price dramatically asks will he ever see his dear Lenore again and we are waiting for — come on, you know this — Quote the Raven, “Nevermore!” instead we hear a rather testy Peter Lorre answer, “How should I know?”

And it goes on from there.

It is a very silly movie. Boris Karloff is responsible for Lorre’s feathered state. He is the evil head magician. Price’s father used to be the (not evil) head magician, but Price lives retired with his beautiful daughter and the body of his dead wife.

Lorre’s son is played by Jack Nicholson. I think it is delightful that Nicholson got his start in cheesy horror movies. So far I’ve seen him in Little Shop of Horrors, The Terror and now The Raven. Unfortunately, in The Raven, he is merely a handsome young man and doesn’t get much to do.

The highlight of the picture is the showdown between Karloff and Price. This is a scene they love to show clips of in Price or Corman retrospectives. Price counters Karloff’s zaps with panache and a sweet smile.

I laughed heartily at The Raven and recommend it to lovers of horror with a sense of humor.

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