• Horror legends Karloff and Lugosi return after the success of The Black Cat the previous year in this deliciously warped slice of horror. Lugosi is sublime as the unhinged Dr Vollin who is coaxed out of retirement to save the life of a pretty dancer {Irene Ware as Jean Thatcher}. He does but in the process becomes infatuated with her and sets about having her all to himself. This spells bad news for her father, Judge Thatcher {Samuel S. Hinds} and her fiancé, Dr. Jerry Holden {Lester Matthews}. Enlisting the help of wanted criminal Edmond Bateman {Karloff} whom has been disfigured by Vollin with the promise of restoring his face, he plots to do away with the men in Jean's life down in his Edgar Allen Poe inspired torture chamber basement.

    Running at just over one hour, The Raven simmers nicely as the characters form, and then boils to the surface for the furious last quarter. In the build up we have been royally treated to some truly excellent scenes as Vollin steadily grows more deranged. The unmasking of Bateman post surgery is unnerving, and thanks to Karloff's ability at making a criminal sympathetic, heartfelt. This is followed by a mirror sequence that is a horror highlight of the 30s and puts us in no doubt that Vollin is a terrifying creation. The creepy house setting is naturally a horror staple but one can't help wondering what a better director than Lew Landers could have made with the simple but effective premise? It's solid enough from Landers, some nice shadow play etc, but what stops it breaking out into genre classic status is its lack of a creeping menace type atmosphere. Which is a shame as it has a potent score from Clifford Vaughan. Still, The Raven is a fine genre piece showcasing two genuine icons, and in spite of its obvious simplicity and little flaws, ends triumphantly in a blaze of insanity and ironic cruelty. 8/10