The other night I watched “The Black Raven.” Released in 1943, this is a fun 60-minute mystery movie produced by the great Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). Some would say PRC stands for Pretty Rotten Crap. Not me.
I enjoy a lot of these Poverty Row thrillers, especially those produced by PRC. They’re usually cheaply produced, and are confined to one or two threadbare sets, and the thrills aren’t all that thrilling. But there’s some unidentifiable something that make these movies compulsively watchable.
A group of mysterious strangers are caught in a rain storm and seek protection at a nearby tavern called The Black Raven. Some of the people are not what they appear to be, and all sorts of mayhem and dead bodies follow.
“The Black Raven” stars are B-movie favorites George Zucco as the tavern owner and Glenn Strange as his handyman. Strange also serves as the comedy relief. Right there that should tell you what kind of movie we are in. The great Charles Middleton (here billed as “Charlie”) plays the sheriff and the feminine charms are essayed by Wanda McKay, a blonde ingénue I’ve always liked. (She also stars in “Voodoo Man” (1944) from PRC’s Poverty Row rival studio, Monogram Pictures. I hope to blog on that movie soon, one of the loopiest horror movies ever).
Plus, you have to love the title - “The Black Raven.” Of course, it’s black, what other color could it be? One of these days I hope to have a little film festival for myself, and call it “Repetitive Title Night.” In addition to the above, I could show Bela Lugosi in “The Invisible Ghost” (1941) and the 1958 British monster flick “The Giant Behemoth.”
There’s some fine entertainment there.
Even better is "The Mad Monster" from 1942, also from PRC, where mad scientist George Zucco decides to aid the Allied war effort by supplying an army of werewolves to fight the Nazis. He turns his assistant (Glenn Strange again) into a werewolf who retains his overalls even in his werewolf make-up. An absolutely splendid movie.