Release Date(s)1963 (August 31, 2021)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
The fifth film in the Corman-Poe cycle, 1963’s The Raven was an attempt at adapting Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem for the big screen, which many considered not an ideal source to build from. Screenwriter Richard Matheson decided to not only adapt the original poem as written, but to add to it and make it more of an overt comedy. Roger Corman returned to direct and Vincent Price returned to star, but this time around, he would have the legendary Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre with him. The film also features a young Jack Nicholson, who by this point was mostly known for one hilarious scene in Corman’s The Little Shop of Horrors. The various elements came together splendidly, with Karloff pulling antagonist duties, Price taking on the protagonist role for a change, and Peter Lorre serving as the main source of comedy. A favorite of many genre fans, some even referring to it as the best of the Corman-Poe films, The Raven was a big success upon release—allowing Matheson, Corman, and Price to go on and make more films together.
Dr. Craven (Price), a student of the black arts, lives in solitude with his daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess), pining for his lost love Lenore (Hazel Court). One night a raven shows up outside his window, and after gaining entrance, informs Craven that he’s actually Dr. Bedlo (Lorre) and that he’s been transformed by the malevolent Dr. Scarabus (Karloff) after an evening of drinking and magic dueling at his castle. Craven returns Bedlo to his original form, and after Bedlo tells him that he’s actually seen Lenore within the walls of the castle, they head off via coach with Estelle and Bedlo’s son Rexford (Jack Nicholson). Upon their arrival, Scarabus is initially a seemingly kind man, but Bedlo still vows for revenge against him. Scarabus soon reveals that he wants to learn Craven’s magic secrets, taking them all prisoner in an attempt to force him to reveal them to him. Instead, Scarabus and Craven duel to the death in a battle of magic versus magic.
The Raven comes to Blu-ray for a second time in the US from Kino Lorber Studio Classics sporting what is assumed to be the same master used for the Shout! Factory release of The Vincent Price Collection II. Comparing them side by side, there isn’t much of a difference between them. It’s a very pleasant transfer that’s clear and free of obvious leftover debris. There’s a mild instability at times and a few scratches, but it’s an otherwise crisp and clean experience. Grain can range from heavy to moderate, depending upon the use of opticals, but detail is high, carrying only a mild softness. Saturation offers variety in the visuals, whether it’s the costumes, the set decorations, or the Craven and Scarabus magic duel at the end of the film. Blacks are deep with good shadow detail, and contrast is ideal. A fresher scan would yield more detail, but as is, it’s quite acceptable. There’s little to complain about with this presentation.
The soundtrack is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. It’s a relatively quiet track. The dialogue exchanges are clear and precise, particularly from Lorre as the raven. Sound effects range from bold and heavy to thin and weak. The magic duel at the end is a particularly clear example of the various levels of sound that the soundtrack has to offer. Les Baxter’s score has decent depth to it and is mixed into the soundtrack well without overcrowding it. It’s a satisfactory track overall without any leftover hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by David Del Valle
- Corman’s Comedy of Poe (Upscaled HD – 8:13)
- Richard Matheson: Storyteller (Upscaled HD – 6:37)
- Trailers from Hell with Mick Garris (Upscaled HD and HD – 2:50)
- Theatrical Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:29)
- Tales of Terror Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:21)
- The Comedy of Terrors Trailer (HD – 2:33)
- Master of the World Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- The Last Man on Earth Trailer (HD – 1:51)
- The Tomb of Ligeia Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- War-Gods of the Deep Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:21)
- Scream and Scream Again Trailer (HD – 2:22)
- Theater of Blood Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- House of the Long Shadows Trailer (HD – 2:28)
Film historian David Del Valle provides the audio commentary duties. Though not advertised as such, this appears to be a new addition. As someone who knew and interviewed many of the film’s key players in front of and behind the camera, and was also a close friend of Vincent Price, he offers his own unique perspective and discusses a variety of topics, including his exposure to the film at a young age, backgrounds on various cast and crew members and their work in the film, and the Corman-Poe series as a whole. As always, his commentary tracks are entertaining, informative, and well-worth your time. Corman’s Comedy of Poe features a DVD-era interview with Roger Corman about the making of the film. Richard Matheson: Storyteller is a short featurette from the same era dedicated to the writer discussing the film, though briefly. The rest of the extras consist of nine trailers for the The Raven and other Vincent Price films released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The disc is housed in a standard amaray case with the original US theatrical artwork. Everything is housed within a limited edition slipcase featuring the same artwork. Not included from the Shout! Factory release is the audio commentary by Steve Haberman, the Vincent Price introduction, the promotional recording, and still gallery. Not included from the Region B German and Austrian Blu-ray release from NSM Records is the Super 8 version of the film and an interview with Boris Karloff. Not included from the Region B UK Blu-ray from Arrow Video is an isolated score and effects audio track in LPCM mono, the documentary Peter Lorre: The Double Face, and The Trick short film.
The Raven is a delightful little horror comedy that does surprisingly a lot with so very little. The very idea that a film could be conjured up out of a poem is ludicrous to begin with, but Richard Matheson and Roger Corman made the most of it and pulled off a funny film with great performances from its leads. The new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber offers a great commentary that’s worth the price tag alone, though little else in terms of upgrades. If anything else, it keeps the film in print on the format since the Shout! Factory boxed set is essentially out of print and going for a hefty sum.
- Tim Salmons