Welcome to Day 2 of Horror Half-Week! Today we take a look at a dark and stormy mystery. Previous post from this year’s spooky celebration: Day 1, The Devil’s Hand
It is a dark and stormy night near the Canadian border. With all of the bridges in the area washed out, leaving no way to cross the border, several travelers seek refuge at The Black Raven:
A man traveling alone, carrying a suitcase full of money;
a young couple, eloping to Canada against the wishes of the bride’s powerful father;
Mr. Winfield, the angry father of the bride, who has tracked his daughter and her groom to the border;
and an escaped convict, who shares a not-quite-pleasant history with the owner of The Black Raven.
Drama, secret-keeping, and even murder ensue as the group waits out the storm. From PRC and director Sam Newfield comes 1943’s The Black Raven.
The Black Raven grips the viewer from the beginning by opening with a confrontation between the inn’s owner and an angry man who is supposed to be serving another ten years in jail.
The suspense isn’t high throughout the film but this tense opening is great, and with several plot lines woven together, The Black Raven has no trouble holding the viewer’s attention. There are several moments of humor, and a few spooky moments as well.
Though I enjoyed watching the film overall, the performances are a bit inconsistent. The cast ranges from quite good (George Zucco, Robert Middlemass) to contrived and stiff (Wanda McKay). None of the performances are weak enough to ruin the film, and luckily, there is some very cleverly-written dialogue for the best players to work with.
The print available on Roku’s “Mystery Channel”* is rough, but the film must have looked nice in its day. The black and white cinematography is sufficiently shadowy and well-suited to a mystery flick.
The Black Raven is no A-list, true classic mystery, but it’s a fun watch for fans of B-movies and Poverty Row genre flicks, with a nice performance by the underrated George Zucco. The score: 3/5
*Side note: I’m new to Roku and have been exploring their classic film offerings. I wouldn’t recommend this channel. Though it has a nice selection of forgotten films, it inserts obnoxious commercial breaks every ten minutes or so, in which THE SAME COMMERCIAL is played three times over. I never want to hear the words “Discount Tire” again after being subjected to their Labor Day sale commercial over… and over… and over. If you’d like to avoid this hell, The Black Raven is in the public domain and available for free download from the Internet Archive.