THE RAVEN, STARRING VINCENT PRICE AND BORIS KARLOFF. (1963) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

raven boysTHE RAVEN. (1963) AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURE. BASED ON THE POEM BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROGER CORMAN. SCREENPLAY BY RICHARD MATHESON. MUSIC BY LES BAXTER. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: JAMES H. NICHOLSON AND SAMUEL Z. ARKOFF.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, PETER LORRE, BORIS KARLOFF, HAZEL COURT, OLIVE STURGESS AND JACK NICHOLSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This quaintly charming horror film is a marvellous example of the work that Roger Corman and Vincent Price did together for AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. With a little help, of course, from a certain sombre-faced writer who went by the name of Edgar Allan Poe, haha.

THE RAVEN begins- and ends- with beloved horror icon Vincent Price actually reciting Poe’s famous poem of the same name and he really does the grim but beautiful words justice. In fact, if you’re going to get someone to read Poe’s words, you really couldn’t do better than have Vincent Price do the job in his deliciously distinctive spooky voice.

My wee son does an impression of the late Vincent Price’s voice that’s so like him it’s uncanny. I really must record him doing it one day for posterity…!

Anyway, in the film THE RAVEN, a rather splendidly-dressing-gowned Vincent Price, playing the magician Erasmus Craven, is sitting about at home when an actual raven comes tap-tap-tapping upon his chamber door, believe it or not. In point of fact, the bird comes to the window but I don’t think that there’s any mention of that in the poem, haha.

The wise-cracking bird turns out to be none other than Peter Lorre under a spell or ‘enchantment,’ put there by an evil wizard called Dr. Scarabus. Some highly hilarious rooting about for ingredients from his dead scientist father’s old laboratory leads to Craven being able to release the Raven, aka Peter Lorre as a boozy second-rate magician called Bedlo, from the spell. The insanity does not, of course, end there…

Bedlo stirs the pot big-time by informing a shocked Craven that he’s seen Craven’s dead wife’s spirit hanging around this Dr. Scarabus’s gaff. Now, Craven still loves the deceased Lenore with every fibre of his being and he’s hell-bent on charging around to Dr. Scarabus’s place to see if what Bedlo says is true.

Also, Bedlo wants his magic-kit back from Scarabus’s house where Scarabus is apparently holding it hostage. The pair high-tail it there in a carriage, accompanied by Craven’s beautiful daughter Estelle and Bedlo’s handsome but rather clown-ish son Rexford, played by a really young Jack Nicholson, long before ever he flew over the cuckoo’s nest to land head-first in THE SHINING…

Horror legend Boris Karloff is magnificent as the aforementioned Dr. Scarabus, a wizard with powers far superior to Bedlo’s but about equal with Craven’s. He greets the deputation with a fake hospitality, feigning polite surprise at their various complaints.

A little display of Dr. Scarabus’s powers over dinner puts Bedlo firmly back in his box. Craven will not be so easy to outwit. But Craven is horribly distracted by the shocking return to life of someone he was sure was dead…

The duel between the two wizards is superbly done and hilariously funny. Vincent Price can be awfully mischievous when he wants to be. The fun and games are wonderful to witness, although the outcome of the duel is never really in doubt. Or is it…?

Hazel Court is fantastic (and delightfully booby-licious!) as the lady whose name we won’t mention for fear of spoilers. Suffice it to say that she also plays a beautiful but duplicitous wife in the excellent horror movie PREMATURE BURIAL starring Ray Milland, a story also based on a work by Mr. Poe. He surely wrote a lot of grim stuff, didn’t he…?

It probably goes without saying that the three leads, Messrs Price, Lorre and Karloff, more than justify their places at the top of the horror tree by turning in warm, passionate and deeply humorous performances. Vincent Price in particular is just marvellous to watch. He’s just having so much fun with it and you can really tell.

As always with AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES, the settings, furnishings and costumes are lavishly-gorgeous and rich and gloriously-coloured, with the lovely russets, reds and orangey-browns coming to the forefront as always.

Dr. Scarabus’s castle exterior takes the form of a stunning-looking painting and the shots of the sea are just beautiful. The film is quite similar to another horror film about the spirit of naughty deceased wives called THE TERROR, also starring Boris Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson. If you haven’t already seen this one, it’s well worth checking out.

THE RAVEN is a terrific watch, anyway. You should put it on one dark windy night when you’re all on your own in the darkened house. That way, when something sinister comes tap-tap-tapping upon your chamber door, it’ll turn the blood in your veins to ice just to hear it, and isn’t it just delightful to be scared stiff…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE MALTESE FALCON. (1941) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

maltese-falcon1THE MALTESE FALCON. (1941) BASED ON THE BOOK BY DASHIELL HAMMETT. SCREENPLAY BY/DIRECTED BY JOHN HUSTON. MUSIC BY ADOLPH DEUTSCH. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY ARTHUR EDESON.

STARRING HUMPHREY BOGART, MARY ASTOR, SYDNEY GREENSTREET AND PETER LORRE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I had the great pleasure of seeing this film on the big screen recently and, I must say, it nearly took the sight out of my eyes, as we say here in Ireland. It was a brilliant life-affirming experience, in other words, haha. It’s one of those films about which people sigh and say: ‘They don’t make ’em like that anymore.’ They certainly don’t, folks. They certainly don’t.

Leading man Humphrey Bogart plays a blinder here as Sam Spade, the private investigator in early ‘Forties America who talks real fast and looks real slick in his sharp dark suit and refers to women as ‘dames’ or ‘broads’ while knowing that, whatever you call them, they’re always trouble. You never know whether he’s going to make love to them or sock ’em in the kisser. As it was the ‘Forties, it could really go either way…!

Sam is the quintessential film noir detective about whom words like ‘hard-bitten,’ ‘hard-boiled’ and ‘gumshoe,’ meaning private eye, are bandied about. Sam Spade is so hard-bitten it’s almost scary. No-one, but no-one, gets one over on Sam. He’s just not made that way. I’d say he came out of the womb talking real fast-like and and cutting a nice sweet deal for himself with the midwife.

He’s sharp as a tack and as smart as paint and he’s nobody’s fool. He suspects everyone he meets of being on the make and on the take and, nine times out of ten, he’s probably right. He’s handsome in a rugged, manly kind of way and altogether way too cool for school as he takes on a small group of dodgy characters who are all searching for the titular ‘Maltese Falcon,’ an historical little ornament worth more than a few bob to whomever gets his mitts on it.

Peter Lorre is terrific as the nattily-dressed and camp-as-Christmas Joel Cairo, the first person Sam meets who’s looking desperately for this little gee-gaw. The whole audience laughed out loud when Cairo demands for the second time that Sam put his hands behind his neck and submit to a search of his rooms in case he’s hiding the Falcon somewhere. I won’t tell you why that’s funny, but you’ll laugh yourself when you see the movie.

Sydney Greenstreet, a stage actor making his film debut here at the age of sixty-one, earned himself an Oscar nomination for his performance as ‘the Fat Man,’ a wealthy auld fella obsessed with finding the jewel-encrusted statuette known as ‘the Maltese Falcon.’

He’s terrific to watch as he grapples verbally with Sam, no slouch himself in the talking stakes, and calls him ‘a real character’ and sets his underling Wilmer on him. An Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor) for your first screen performance is no mean feat.

I’m only surprised that Humphrey Bogart didn’t get one for his own blisteringly hot turn as Sam Spade, Private Dick Extraordinaire. He would’ve totally deserved it. I liked Lee Patrick too as the faithful and unfailingly discreet female secretary that every Private Dick needs to have watching his back, and the two cops were great too. Sooooo ‘Forties…!

Now for the love interest. I’m afraid I didn’t like Mary Astor in the role of Brigid O’Shaughnessy. (She didn’t sound remotely Oirish, for one thing…!) Her one-sided hairstyle was a disaster and I would have liked to see someone softer, blonder, curvier and, let’s face it, sexier in the role.

I didn’t like all her umm-ing and aah-ing and faffing about, talking all the time without really saying a damned thing that made any sense. I don’t know why Humph put up with her nonsense for so long, frankly. He should have turned her out on her ear. Or said to her what he said to Joel Cairo:

‘When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it…!’

I kind of wish he’d said that to me, haha. It’s not domestic violence if a leading man in a ‘Forties crime drama slaps you, after all. It’s just the way they did things back then. Isn’t it…?

This magnificent film, a triumph of scriptwriting, was selected for inclusion in the Library Of Congress’s National Film Registry in 1989, which means that it was considered to be ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.’

Damn straight. There’s a reason that this film is constantly reaching the high numbers in people’s ‘Best Films Of All Time’ lists. It’s a superb film noir with guts, balls and heart and real fast talking and you know what else?

‘It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor