The Black Raven [1943]


  An old dark house mystery, starring George Zucco, a character actor supposedly know for his sinister characters, but I saw nothing of that in Dr. Renault’s Secret. Directed by Sam Newfield, a director of legendary output of over two hundred and fifty movies, sometimes as much as twenty per year. He even used two pseudonyms, so they would hide the fact. In an interview, his son tells how the New York office of PCR, the poverty row studio that produced most of his movies at the time, not knowing the fact, called his brother, the head producer or something, in for the meeting, and said that Sam is good, but he should use Sherman Scott and especially Peter Stewart more, ’cause they are simply better. Scott and Stewart were of course Newfield’s pseudonyms. About his movies, Martin Scorsese said: “Newfield is hard, that’s a hard one, you can’t do too much of that.” because he often seems absolutely detached from the images that appear on the screen, as if he is an observer rather than a participant. And how he wouldn’t be considering the fact that most of the movies took less than a week to shoot. But being what it is and clocking at an hour, how bad can it be?

Heavy rain.

  In an old in called The Black Raven a group of strangers incidentally meet, courtesy of hard weather outside, inn being near the Canadian border, which wants to be crossed by all of them, but can’t be because the bridge is flooded. Reminded of Dr. Renault’s Secret again? They also have to stay at the inn because the bridge is flooded. Anyways, The Black Raven is also the sexy and completely unsuitable criminal alias of the inn keeper, Amos Bradford (George Zucco). The guests obviously aren’t the best people themselves, since one is regularly in no hurry to cross the border. They are a gangster with a gangster’s name Mike Bardoni (Noel Madison), a jumpy office clerk with fifty thousand dollars in a suitcase, again suitably named Horace Weatherby (Byron Foulger), a couple waiting to be married and escaping the bride’s father, Lee Winfield and Allen Bentley(Wanda McKay and Robert Livingston), the father, an important politician Tim Winfield (Robert Middlemass), an escaped convict Whitey Cole (I. Stanford Jolley) and later on the sheriff of course, played by Charles Middleton. Last, but not least, is the servant Andy (Glenn Strange). Money has been stolen, and murders happen. Who did it?

Mike Bardoni (Noel Madison)

  There are maybe three memorable moment’s, one being the funny talk between Weatherby and the bridge keeper, second being the moment when Tim Winfield bitchslaps Bentley and the force of the slap makes him hit the wall. The third one was the best, woman holding the sheriff, he escapes, Zucco trips him, his pistol fell, he picks it up, pistol falls again, he picks it up again and runs away. Weird scene, it wouldn’t be weird in a comedy, but here it is. Some other memorable moments may or may not have happened, but they were cloaked by the impenetrable darkness of the print. I saw mostly nothing of the action happening in the cellar, and the last scene where the mystery reveals was also unseen by me, but I think i managed to get who did it. That’s the biggest problem of the movie. If you want to see it, try to get the The Black & Blue Collection, where it stands besides two other movie, supposedly it has the brightest picture. The mystery itself was not really engaging, maybe because I don’t care.

Talk between Weatherby and the bridge keeper

  Actors are mostly pretty good. George Zucco is pretty laid back, and doesn’t care what happens, just watches what happens. The later care for justice gives some discrepancy to his character. Nevertheless, I liked him better here, and I maybe begin to get his appeal. Wanda McKay was the classic unmemorable female character of the era, weak and useless, so I really couldn’t notice her. Noel Madison was a good gangster, not overdoing it too much, only a little. Charles B. Middleton was somewhat dumb and off-putting. Glenn Strange I liked the best, he was somewhat funny, and his presence alone is noticable. I can’t tell more about it, because like I said, you can’t really see the subtle acting which makes the actor good, because of the darkness.

Amos Bradford AKA The Sexy Raven (George Zucco)

  Atmosphere is really good, with good weather effects considering the budget, the dark house being even darker, the “I don’t give a fuck, but I’m a little curious because I have nothing better to do” attitude of the innkeeper, constant unspecified reference to his criminal history, not suiting him now, everyone not being really alarmed about the murders, but in a way that’s almost intentional by the filmmaker. You really won’t miss anything if you don’t see it, but it’s never boring, the atmosphere is really great, actor are good, there’s some very dry comic relief. Also, fuck Martin Scorsese. This movie can reel you in with the atmosphere.

Horace Weatherby (Byron Foulger)

Allen Bentley and Lee Winfield (Robert Livingston and Wanda McKay)

Fap fap fap

O, hey there!

He goes clubbing.

He’s okay, but kind of a dick. Sheriff (Charles Middleton)


One Response to “The Black Raven [1943]”

  1. nezz

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