Movies and Film

A Mint on the Pillow and Murder, Only at… – The Black Raven (1943)

On a dark and stormy night, a bunch of strangers are driven towards The Black Raven as the only shelter around, an inn run by the one and only George Zucco, known as the Raven. The Raven is a criminal whom the police have had little luck in catching and while it might seem like he would be the focus of what happens in this film, director Sam Newfield surprises just a little as Zucco, a perennial bad guy and who is more than just a little shady here, takes a turn doing a little good. Factor in a bag of cash and a murderer hiding among the people staying at the inn and what might have been a quiet night, turned out to be anything but.

For the most part, The Black Raven is a paint by numbers affair, yet even so, it still manages to throw in a red herring or two to keep the mystery going and by the end of it all, the killer is not who the audience thinks it is. As it stands, the movie still tends to be entertaining as the cast more than anything else, makes it worth watching. Zucco is good as the lead, a man who walks the fine line between hero and villain and while his motives remain his own and leaves the viewer wondering just what he is going to do, in the end he redeemed his criminal past just a little bit. Also starring is Glenn Strange, a man known for among other things playing Frankenstein’s Monster, as well as Wanda McKay and Noel Madison among others. For a mystery, it not so much thrilling as it is dramatic and Zucco and the rest of the cast deliver solid performances to make it so. What would have been nice to see was a little more suspense, but as it was slightly predictable, suspense was taken out of the equation.

Overall, The Black Raven is worth watching mainly for Zucco’s performance, though it does provide an hour of entertainment that never feels wasted. What is a bit of a shame is that George Zucco never became a bigger star than he was, but by the same token, it makes discovering his films a fun pastime. Not a great movie, but a good one and even fun despite the subject material.

3 out of 5

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