Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Black Cat (1934)

Edgar G. Ulmer
1934 • 65 Minutes • 1.33 : 1 • United States

Screenplay: Peter Ruric; Story by Edgar G. Ulmer, Peter Ruric
Cast: Boris Karloff, Béla Lugosi
Cinematography: John J. Mescall
Producer: E. M. Asher


Dracula VS Frankenstein's Monster! Sort of. This underrated and underseen pre-code horror film stars the two titans of 1930s monster movies: Lugosi and Karloff. Peter and Joan are two honeymooners get caught up in a twisted revenge plot between Lugosi's Dr. Werdegast and Karloff's Hjalmar Poelzig.  Werdegast is a cat-phobic psychiatrist who spent the last 15 years as a prisoner of war, never seeing his wife again. The honeymooners meet Werdegast on their way to Hungary, but get sidetracked in a bus accident. Werdegast treats Joan's injuries and they end up seeking refuge at none other than Poelzig's home (to which Werdegast was already traveling).  Once there, the history between the two men unfolds. Werdegast blames Poelzig for his imprisonment and for stealing his wife away. It is revealed the Poelzig is a satanist and plans on sacrificing the injured Joan in a brutal ritual. What follows is a game of psychological cat and mouse between the old rivals, with the lives of the honeymooners hanging in the balance. The end of the film takes full advantage of its pre-code freedom as Werdegast enacts a psychotic revenge. In a little over an hour the film packs in drugs, necrophilia, torture and satanic rituals. The film credits Edgar Allan Poe as inspiration, but this film has little to do with his work. While Count Dracula is his most famous role, this is, in my opinion, Bela Lugosi's best role as the twisted anti-hero with a thirst for vengeance. The best scene in the film is when Lugosi and Karloff play a game of chess, literally gambling with the lives of Peter and Joan. The film was a major box office success for Universal, and Lugosi and Karloff went on to star in several films together including THE RAVEN (1935), SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) and THE BODY SNATCHER (1945).

"Do you know what I am going to do to you now? No? Did you ever see an animal skinned, Hjalmar? That's what I'm going to do to you now - fare the skin from your body... slowly... bit by bit!"

Featured Post

The 2019 Essential Film Awards

Celebrating the cinematic achievements of 2018. Official 2018 Selections ___________________ Best Film - Dram...