Tag Archives: Richard Matheson

The Raven (1963)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: The search for Lenore.

Dr. Craven (Vincent Price) is a former sorcerer who one night is visited by a talking raven. The raven is actually Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre) who has been turned into a bird by the evil Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). Craven manages to concoct a potion that allows Bedlo to turn back into his human form and in appreciation he tells Craven that he has seen Lenore (Hazel Court), who Craven was once married to and was thought to be dead, living with Scarabus in his castle. Craven decides to pay Scarabus a visit to see if this is true and brings along his daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess) as well as Bedlo and Bedlo’s son Rexford (Jack Nicholson). When they arrive they are greeted by the conniving wizard who at first denies any wrongdoing, but it soon becomes clear that he is jealous of Craven’s powers and wants to attain them for himself, which leads to a climactic cosmic duel between the two sorcerers.

This film marked the fourth collaboration between writer Richard Matheson and director Roger Corman and for the most part it is an entertaining success. The two apparently had so much fun creating the comic story of ‘The Black Cat’ in Tales of Terror trilogy that they decided to do a feature length horror/comedy that is very loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem. Despite being shot in only 15 days the film isn’t as limited by Corman’s usual low budget constraints and I was genuinely surprised how imaginative the special effects where and the overall impressive background sets.

The film’s biggest boost is clearly the three lead actors who are all at their absolute peak. I especially enjoyed Lorre who brazenly steals every scene he is in and ad-libbed many of his funny lines much to the consternation of his co-stars. In fact if Lorre wasn’t in this it wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable. A young Nicholson as his son is equally entertaining and the frosty relationship that the two characters have was apparently a carry-over from how they felt about each other from behind-the-scenes.

Some of the effects are clearly animated, which looks tacky and as the group arrive at Scarabus’ castle one can see that the place is merely a painting matted on the screen. The story also does have its share of lulls, but all of this gets forgiven by the climactic sorcerer’s duel, which is the film’s highlight.

raven

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 25, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Roger Corman

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

trilogy of terror 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Menaced by a doll.

Interesting made-for-TV movie that first aired on ABC on the night of March 4, 1975. The film is broken up into three different horror stories all of which star Karen Black in different roles and all based on short stories written by Richard Matheson. Dan Curtis famous for producing the horror soap opera ‘Dark Shadows’ directs all three segments and even employs two actors from that series John Karlen and Jim Storm in small supporting roles.

The first segment is entitled Julie and features Black as a prim-and-proper college professor who gains the attention of Chad (Robert Burton) who is one of her students. Chad asks Julie out on a date and then drugs her drink, which knocks her out. When she is unconscious he takes revealing pictures of her and then uses these to blackmail her into continuing to have sex with him.

The ‘surprise’ twist on this one isn’t too interesting and full of a few loopholes. This also falls into the typical Hollywood treatment where an otherwise attractive woman with a great figure is labeled as ‘homely’ simply because she wears glasses and has her hair tied up into a bun. Although the storyline is surprisingly smarmy for the time period I still thought it was hooky that when he takes those ‘revealing’ pictures of her she is still wearing her clothes when most likely in reality he would have taken them off. The only intriguing element of this segment is the fact that Burton was married to Black at the time that this was filmed, so it was interesting to see them perform together especially since their union was brief and barely even lasted a year.

The second segment is entitled ‘Millicent and Therese’ and is the story of two feuding sisters both played by Black and their diametrically opposite personalities. It is interesting to see Black play such contrasting characters, but otherwise the story is weak and I had figured out the rather obvious twist of this long before it occurred and most others will too.

The final and most famous segment is entitled ‘Amelia’ and is about a woman who buys an African Tribal doll for her boyfriend. The doll is a miniaturized replica of an ancient hunter complete with a spear and outfit. A gold chain which is around the doll supposedly holds in its evil spirit, but when that chain falls off it begins attacking Amelia who then desperately tries fighting him off while all alone her apartment.

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While the idea of such a small doll with its tiny little arms being able to stab someone let alone turn doorknobs or bend the bolt of her door so she can’t get out seems a bit silly and absurd the action is still effective. Curtis’s use of dolly shots showing the camera zooming through the apartment at knee level in an attempt at displaying the point-of-view of the attacking doll is excellent. Despite the simple special effects they still work and the scariest thing about the doll is the weird chanting, hissing sound that it makes. The final image of this segment is quite possibly the most memorable of the entire film.

The only real suggestion I would have with this story is that it would have been nice to have shown the scene where the Amelia character goes to the shop and actually purchases the doll and shown more of a reason, or motivation for wanting to buy such a strange object in the first place.

21 years later Curtis made a sequel called ‘Trilogy of Terror II’ although that was not as well received. This film though is still enjoyable and well above average for TV-movie fare.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 4, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 12Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Dan Curtis

Studio: ABC Circle Films

Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube