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Old 14th January 2021, 11:45 AM
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The Raven (1935) ★★★★

Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff became icons of the horror genre with their performances as Dracula and Frankenstein's monster respectively. In the following years they made dozens of horror films, mostly for Universal, appearing together no fewer than eight times, but never straying far from the roles in which they made their names.

Universal were responsible for some of the most influential and respected horror movies in the 1930s and '40s: Dracula, Frankenstein (and Bride of...), The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man – the list goes on. They also used their contract players Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff to star in more psychological horrors that didn't use monsters to have the audience squirming in their seats. The Black Cat and The Raven used the gothic terror of Poe – more his whole work than just the stories from which these titles were taken – to create atmospheric and unsettling films.

Released the year after The Black Cat, Lugosi and Karloff played opposite each other again and again they were excellent. As Dr. Frankenstein's creation, Karloff was able to evoke sympathy from the audience whilst playing a dangerous monster. Here he also plays a dangerous character – a man who turned an oxyacetylene torch on someone's face because they raised the alarm in a bank robbery, and yet, when he encounters Lugosi's Dr. Vollin, your sympathy turns to Karloff's Edmond Bateman because of the sadistic treatment meted out to him by Dr. Vollin.

Using Poe-inspired torture devices, particularly the pendulum, Lew Landers is able to create nightmarish scenarios of the kind now found in the 'Hostel' and 'Saw' films, though more scary due to implication and suggestion.
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