The Raven (1935 film)

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The Raven
The Raven (1935 film poster - Style C).jpg
Theatrical release poster by Karoly Grosz[1]
Directed byLew Landers
Screenplay byDavid Boehm[2]
CinematographyCharles Stumar[2]
Edited byAlbert Akst[2]
Music byClifford Vaughan[2]
Distributed byUniversal Pictures Corp.
Release date
  • July 1935 (1935-07)
Running time
61 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States[3]

The Raven is a 1935 American horror film directed by Lew Landers (billed as Louis Friedlander) and starring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi. The film is based on Edgar Allan Poe's 1845 homonymous poem, featuring Lugosi as a Poe-obsessed mad surgeon with a torture chamber in his basement and Karloff as a fugitive murderer on the run from the police.


After Jean Thatcher (Ware) has been injured in a car accident, her father, Judge Thatcher (Hinds) and beau, Jerry (Matthews) implore retired surgeon, Dr. Richard Vollin (Lugosi) to perform a delicate operation to restore her to health. Vollin is insensitive to human suffering and refuses to help, but a personal visit by Judge Thatcher, who tells him that in the opinion of Vollin's former hospital colleagues, only Vollin has the brilliance to perform the operation successfully, pleases his vanity and he agrees to assist.

After saving her life, Vollin befriends the spirited and grateful Jean, in the process revealing his passion for all things related to Edgar Allan Poe, including his homemade collection of torture devices inspired by Poe's works (such as a pit, pendulum with crescent razor, shrinking room, etc.), and identifying the raven as his talisman.

Vollin's attentions to Jean and her increasing admiration for him, convince her father to try and discourage Vollin from jeopardizing her engagement to Jerry. Angered, Vollin hatches a plan when Edmond Bateman, (Karloff, a murderer on the run), comes to his home asking for a new face so that he may live in anonymity. Vollin admits to not being a plastic surgeon, but says he can help Bateman and asks him to help in exacting revenge on Judge Thatcher, which he refuses. Bateman explains that he feels his violent personality is a result of his having been called ugly all his life, and he hopes a new face may help him reform. Vollin performs the surgery, but instead turns Bateman into a disfigured monster, promising only to operate again on Bateman when Vollin's revenge is exacted.

Vollin hosts a dinner party which includes Jean, Jerry and the Judge. During the night, some of the guests are subjected to Poe-inspired traps, while others are silenced by sleeping powders. Ultimately, Bateman is shot by Vollin as he rescues Jean and Jerry, but throws Vollin into the shrinking room where he is crushed to death, after which the guests escape.



The Raven was the final film in the 1930s Universal Pictures Poe trilogy, following their previous adaptations of Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Black Cat.[2] Among the earliest mentions of the film from Universal was in June 1934 when the studio announced that Bela Lugosi had signed on for a three-picture deal, which included The Raven as part of its productions.[4] For his role in the film, Lugosi was paid US$5,000 and Karloff was paid $10,000.[5]

Between August 1934 and March 1935, at least seven writers worked on the script for The Raven.[5] This included novelist Guy Endore who submitted a 19-page treatment based on the poem that contained elements of Poe's "The Gold-Bug".[5] A week later, Universal announced that it had signed Chester Morris for a role in the film. Morris does not appear in the final film and Endore's treatment was not used.[5] In October, Michael Simmons and Clarence Marks collaborated on a treatment and wrote a screenplay based upon it.[5] John Lynch and Dore Schary also reportedly contributed to a script, but whether or not their work was used in the film is unknown.[5] Former Warner Bros. dialogue writer David Boem was then engaged to write a script and turned in three screenplays to Universal for The Raven.[5]

Director Lew Landers was hired to direct the film with shooting to begin on March 20, 1935 with a 16-day schedule.[6] Four days prior to shooting, a conference between Landers, the Production Code Administration (PCA) and Universal studio executives took place, to confirm that no scenes of the operation on Batemen would be shown.[6] The PCA reviewed various shots of Bateman to determine their suitability and after studying the final shooting script from March 19, issued a written statement that "we [...] deem it necessary to remind you that, because of the stark realism of numerous elements in your story, you are running the risk of excessive horror".[6] Filming completed on schedule on April 5 going $5,000 over-budget, leading to the final cost of the film to be $115,209.91.[6]


The Raven was distributed theatrically by Universal Pictures in July 1935a and was banned from several locations on its initial release, including China, the Netherlands and Ontario and British Columbia in Canada.[7][8] In the United Kingdom, The London Times issued a report on horror films and The Raven in particular on August 4, 1935,[8] noting that:

'Every picture should have a purpose, preferably a high one. Any concentration upon Murder as Murder can only kill the films themselves. But it is difficult to speculate as to what intention, other than the stimulation of a low morbid interest, can be behind such a production as The Raven....Here is a film of "horror" for "horror's" sake.... It devises shelter under the statement that it has been inspired by the genius of Edgar Allan Poe. Nonsense. Neither story nor treatment give indication of any imaginative control.'

Nineteen days following this report, the Associated Press reported that The Raven would be the last horror film passed by the British Board of Film Censors.[8] The authors noted that this reception did not alter Universal's plans to have Karloff and Lugosi in The Invisible Ray, a film they described as "decidedly tamer".[8] Following a renewed interest of Horror films after the reissue of Frankenstein and Dracula in 1938, Universal planned a remake of The Raven with both Karloff and Lugosi.[8]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD as part of the Bela Lugosi Collection in 2005 along with Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday.[9] In 2013, 'Altitude' licensed the film from 'Hollywood Entertainment' (on behalf of Universal Pictures), but mis-described in its cover's synopsis two plot developments. Eureka Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray in July 2020 as part of their Masters of Cinema collection in their Three Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations Starring Bela Lugosi set which also included Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Black Cat.[10]


From contemporary reviews, Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times declared that "[i]f The Raven is the best that Universal can do with one of the greatest horror story writers of all time, then it had better toss away the other two books in its library and stick to the pulpies for plot material".[8] Thornton Delehanty of The New York Evening Post had a similar reaction, stating that the film "has no more bearing on the original source than a stuffed bird has to an elephant".[8]

Decades after its release, the authors of the book Universal Horrors stated that "few of the vintage Universal shock classics (with the exception of Dracula) have sustained as many brickbats as this ill-conceived film", noting that Karloff was miscast and an undistinguished quality of the writing and direction.[2][11]

See also[edit]


  • ^ a Sources differ on the release of The Raven. The book Universal Horrors declares its release as July 22, the American Film Institute states July 8, and newspapers show releases as early as July 1.[12][2][3]



  1. ^ Nourmand & Marsh 2004, p. 178.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Weaver, Bruans & Brunas 2007, p. 139.
  3. ^ a b c "The Raven". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  4. ^ Weaver, Bruans & Brunas 2007, p. 141.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Weaver, Bruans & Brunas 2007, p. 142.
  6. ^ a b c d Weaver, Bruans & Brunas 2007, p. 143.
  7. ^ Weaver, Bruans & Brunas 2007, p. 146.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Weaver, Bruans & Brunas 2007, p. 147.
  9. ^ Gilchrist, Tod (October 27, 2005). "The Bela Lugosi Collection". IGN. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  10. ^ "The Horror!! The Horror!! It's all about the Horror as Eureka reveal their July 2020 lineup". Eureka Entertainment. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  11. ^ Weaver, Bruans & Brunas 2007, p. 140.
  12. ^ "Today's Movie Time Table". The St. Louis Star and Times. July 1, 1935. p. 13. Retrieved June 13, 2020.


  • Nourmand, Tony; Marsh, Graham, eds. (2004). Horror Poster Art. London: Aurum Press Limited. ISBN 1-84513-010-3.
  • Weaver, Tom; Brunas, Michael; Brunas, John (2007) [1990]. Universal Horrors (2 ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-2974-5.

External links[edit]