Monday, December 21, 2009

'The Black Raven' is an inn to avoid

The Black Raven (1943)
Starring: George Zucco, Glenn Strange, Noel Madison, Byron Foulger, Wanda McKay, Robert Livingston and Robert Middlemass
Director: Sam Newfield
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

The Black Raven Inn has a reputation only slightly more shady than its owner (Zucco), but on one dark and very stormy night, it plays host to more than the usual share of crooks and creeps when someone starts murdering the men and women who have been trapped there because the bridges have been washed out.

"The Black Raven" starts strong, playing like a straight-forward cross between a "dark old house" film and an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. However, by the time the first murder occurs, the movie has already descended into a meandering morass of filler... and when it starts getting good again--right around the time where George Zucco's character begins to show he's more than just a villainous innkeeper who makes his real living by smuggling criminals across the border to Canada--viewers are so bored they hardly notice or care.

Everything about this film is substandard, and it seems pretty clear that most everyone invovled was just there to collect a paycheck... or they're terribly miscast. Zucco, who usually seems to give a movie his all, seems to be sleepwalking through most his scenes, and I don't think Glenn Strange has a comedic bone in his body; he never should have been cast in the role as the comic relief character. Even as a murder mystery the film is fairly lazy (although it does have one minor twist to it, a twist that makes it harder than usual to guess who the killer is because it's someone that is so obvious that the character is dismissed as a suspect in the minds of experienced mystery watchers/readers).This film might be of interest if you're the world's biggest fan of George Zucco, but even then I think you might feel as if you've wasted your time when your done watching it, even at its brief 61-minutes.

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