Monday, October 2, 2023

Review: It's October — Who's that knocking at the chamber door?

This week in Jack-o’-Lantern Press, we're celebrating the beginning of October and the spooky season. Today, movie reviewer Dan Cook gets a knock on his chamber door. What better way to begin the week than with Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and one of October’s favorite birds ...

THE RAVEN (1963)

Bluray Collection

“Shall I ever hold again the radiant maiden whom the angels call Lenore?”

“How the hell should I know?”

A cracking horror comedy starring three of the most legendary actors in the genre’s history, Roger Corman’s 1963 “adaptation” of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a ghoulishly hilarious romp that blends the gothic with giggles with hugely entertaining results. Twisting the immortal poem of grief into a fantasy farce, the film features Corman regular Vincent Price as a humble magician who joins forces with a fellow conjuror played by Peter Lorre to do battle with Boris Karloff’s evil Sorcerer Dr. Scarabus.

A far cry from the macabre tone of the other Poe interpretations that Corman and Price collaborated on such as “The Pit And The Pendulum” (1961) and “The Masque of The Red Death” (1964), “The Raven” is instead a much lighter, family friendly affair. And while screenwriter Richard Matheson’s creative liberty with the source material may annoy literary purists, the enjoyably hammy performances as well as the witty script make it one of the directors more widely accessible pictures.

Price, Lorre and Karloff are clearly having enormous fun with their respective roles — with Lorre in particular providing big laughs as the drunken Dr. Bedlo, arriving on the scene in the form of a snarky talking bird — while the atmospheric score by Albert Harris bounces between scary and silly with enjoyable relish. Throw in some ravishingly gothic sets, a very young Jack Nicholson as the dashing hero, the beautiful Hazel Court, and a spectacular wizarding duel with comedic timing reminiscent of the battle between Merlin and Madam Mim in Disney’s “The Sword and The Stone” (also released in 1963), and you have the perfect spooky movie to introduce kids to the wonderful world of classic horror.

Dan Cook is a movie reviewer on Letterboxd, and he also posts his reviews on Facebook. He’s a self-proclaimed film fanatic, avid reader and retro gamer who lives in Dudley, England, with his wife, Sam, and their two daughters.

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