The Raven (Philip J. Riley’s Nightmare Series book 3) by Eunice Sudak (book review)

I chose ‘The Raven’ from BearManor Media’s ‘Philip J. Riley’s Nightmare Series’ books mainly because I was familiar with this 1963 film. Just in case you don’t know, its three stars were Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff with Hazel Court, Olive Sturges and Jack Nicholson in supporting roles. It was one of the last horror films based off Edgar Allan Poe’s that Roger Corman directed. Thing was, though, the 18 verse poem was hardly a story. In fact, it wasn’t even that, leaving scriptwriter Richard Matheson to make it a starting point for a rich comedy, which the leads all loved and has become a classic. If you haven’t seen the film, please seek it out.

What we have in this book is the 124 page novelisation of the film by Eunice Sudak. The plot in brief. Dr. Erasmus Craven is contemplating his magic at home when a raven taps on his window. Let in, the raven explains that he was transformed into this state in a magical duel with Dr. Scarabus, head of the United Brotherhood of Sorcerers. Only to be able to rely on concoctions, he was no match for Scarabus’ hand gestures, something that Craven himself can do. However, to undo the spell, the raven needs Craven to brew the counter-spell. So, for the first time since his father died, Craven has to visit his late father’s laboratory. Unfortunately, he doesn’t restore the raven totally to human form and the annoyed Dr. Adolphus Bedlo insists Craven makes more of the formula. He also explains that he saw Craven’s deceased wife, Lenore, in Scarabus’ castle, which is enough to convince Craven they must go there once he restores Bedlo completely. They are accompanied by Craven’s daughter, Estelle, and Bedlo’s son, Rexford. Everything else is a delightful spoiler.

To follow up the story are interviews with Vincent Price, Roger Corman and Richard Matheson conducted by Lawrence French and a 1960s interview with Boris Karloff. In many respects, I wish they has been put in the right order because Corman refutes some of the claims made as misquotes. However, they all give some insight into the film. There are also a lot of photos from the film here as well, making it a useful archive. Don’t quote the raven by saying, ‘Nevermore.’ You’ll never know what might be tapping on your window.

GF Willmetts

June 2018

(pub: BearManor Media. 153 page illustrated enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US), £10.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59393-485-9)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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