The reason this is so effective. In one of his finest roles as the mad Doctor Richard Vollin, the icon steals every moment of the show. Black Hearted, obsessed, demanding; Bela opens the flood gates and out comes a very memorable character that fully succeeds with a sickness. A key scene where he really displays the skills with Vollin is when Judge Thatcher tells him he musn't see his daughter ever again, and the mad Doc's eyes wince sharply together while he starts demanding to the Judge to bring him Joan.
Unfortunately, Karloff shows up twenty minutes into the story, which is a considerably long wait when the film just an hour. As the murderous Bateman, he's not given a whole lot of character, other than he's violent, angry and probably just as mad as Vollin. After his operation, he's turned into a wretched, two-faced freak. More uglier than ever before. This brings on one of the most involving moments for the two horror legends. After seeing his appearance through several mirrors, he jolts into a spastic rage, and all the mirrors are shattered from his gun a-blazin'. Boris still does a fine job with the more or less supporting role, but a little more would've been nice.
The movie spends so much time focusing on Bela and letting him work the magic, that everybody else is pretty lacking during many scenes. Even Irene Ware as Joan is pretty transparent, and so much more is expected from the character of the woman Vollin is obsessed with. Other than having the rage for Poe (though, not nearly on the level of the Doctor), her ability to dance and her hidden devotion towards the Doc, not much else is given about her. The segments with her and Dr. Jerry Holdon (Lester Matthews), her fiancé, are wasted by no real display of affection. The dialog seems false and forced, aside from a scant few genuine moments of Matthews making it believable. Samuel S Hinds as Joans' Father gives the secondary role all it needs. He's protective, doesn't trust Vollin for a second and never backs down from him. In character, Hinds shows more concern for his daughter's safety than her own husband. Disappointing.
The settings and environments are brilliant, especially Vollin's mansion of trap doors, secret rooms behind bookcases, rooms where the walls come together and some that descend into a lair where Doc keeps all kinds of demented torture devices; most importantly the massive swaying blade that slowly lowers itself down into a hapless victim from The Pit and the Pendulum. Several good scenes of eye candy here.
Not really as effective as The Black Cat, IMO. Karloff and Lugosi didn't have the chemistry, Lugosi was his own chemistry. The Raven sometimes just seems like it's living in the shadow of the Black Cat. Both movies are merely just respects to the Poe stories, and stray from following in their footsteps; though, The Raven definitely gives more nods. Not perfect, but it's still a very entertaining Uni/Bela/Boris outing.
6 out of 7 found this helpful