A film, called The Raven, was banned in Miri, as being “purely morbid and gruesome.”
That was the the description that was published in The Sarawak Gazette on July 1, 1937.
So what was so morbid and gruesome about the movie that it was banned? Plus, where did Mirians watch movies back in the 1930s?
About The Raven (1935)
The Raven was the last film in the 1930s Universal Pictures Edgar Allan Poe trilogy, after the previous adaptations of Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Black Cat.
It is based on Poe’s 1845 poem The Raven.
The story follows Dr Richard Vollin (portrayed by Bela Lugosi, who played the first Count Dracula on film) who is obsessed with all things related to Poe. If only he was obsessed with normal merchandise such as T-shirts, mugs or socks, but nope…Dr Vollin was passionate in making torture devices inspired by Poe’s works.
When Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware) is injured in a car accident, her father Judge Thatcher (Samual S. Hinds) and boyfriend Jerry (Lester Matthews) ask Dr Vollin for help.
Vollin agrees and the operation is a success. Somewhere between the operation table to a recovered Jean, Vollin falls in love with the girl.
After finding out Vollin’s feelings, her father disapproves of his pursuit of Jean.
Unfortunately, the doctor does not handle rejection well so he plots revenge against the Thatchers, making full use of his Poe-inspired torture devices.
On Aug 4, 1935, The London Times wrote this in its review of this film:
“Every picture should have a purpose, preferably a high one. Any concentration upon Murder as Murder can only kill the films themselves. But it is difficult to speculate as to what intention, other than the stimulation of a low morbid interest, can be behind such a production as The Raven’….Here is a film of “horror” for “horror’s” sake…. It devises shelter under the statement that it has been inspired by the genius of Edgar Allan Poe. Non-sense. Neither story nor treatment give indication of any imaginative control.”
The earliest cinema in Miri
Now, comes the question of where did Mirians watch The Raven before it was banned?
Gymkhana Club Miri (GMC) was founded sometimes in 1913 and the club built the first swimming pool in Miri in 1926.
This open air cinema was reportedly started since the 1920s by Sarawak Oilfields Ltd.
The company was a subsidiary of the Shell/Royal Dutch Group which was established to run the oil industry in Miri.
The patrons of this open air cinema was most probably the employees and families of Sarawak Oilfields Ltd.