Black Cat

The Black Cat

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners

Cast: Edgar G. Ulmer, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners

     
 
The first cinematic teaming of horror greats Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi is a bizarre, haunting, and relentlessly eerie film that was surprisingly morbid and perverse for its time. Peter (David Manners) and Joan Allison (Julie Bishop) are honeymooning in Budapest when they meet mysterious scientist Dr. Vitus Verdegast (Lugosi) aboard a train. When the trio's bus

Overview

The first cinematic teaming of horror greats Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi is a bizarre, haunting, and relentlessly eerie film that was surprisingly morbid and perverse for its time. Peter (David Manners) and Joan Allison (Julie Bishop) are honeymooning in Budapest when they meet mysterious scientist Dr. Vitus Verdegast (Lugosi) aboard a train. When the trio's bus from the train station gets into an accident, the young couple accompanies Verdegast to the castle of the spectral Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff), an architect and the leader of a Satanic cult. Poelzig's treachery in World War I caused the deaths of thousands of his and Verdegast's countrymen, as well as Verdegast's own internment as a prisoner of war. While Verdegast was detained, Poelzig married first his wife, who later died, then his daughter. Now Verdegast has come back for retribution, and the honeymooners are trapped in the two men's horrifying battle of wits. Corpses preserved in glass cases, frightening Satanic rituals, and a climactic confrontation in which one of the characters is skinned alive add to the film's pervasive sense of evil and doom, along with the stark black-and-white photography by John Mescall that makes Poelzig's futuristic mountaintop mansion even more disturbing. Karloff and Lugosi are both excellent, with Lugosi doing a rare turn as a good guy, albeit one who has gone off the rails. Having little to do with the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, The Black Cat has grown in stature over the years and is now widely regarded as the masterpiece of director Edgar G. Ulmer and one of the finest horror films ever made.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
The Black Cat is director Edgar G. Ulmer's masterpiece, and only the commercial considerations of its day prevent it from ranking higher on lists of the greatest films of the 20th century. The story operates on multiple levels, most deeply as a parable for post-WWI Europe. Unlike such anti-war films as All Quiet on the Western Front, which seem to have all the answers worked out before the first scene, The Black Cat presents a series of morally ambiguous metaphors that undermine the story's conventional ending. At its most basic level, The Black Cat works as a great horror film. The Bauhaus-inspired set design is uncomfortably disquieting, and Boris Karloff's performance creates one of the screen's most distinct and credible villains. The monsters in The Black Cat are human, unlike in other horror films of the era, where viewers could leave the theater and be quite sure that they would never be terrorized by a mummy or a werewolf. And while the audience understands that Bela Lugosi is the de facto representation of good, there are uncomfortable shortcomings in his character that hinder the audience's comfort. Regrettably, Ulmer felt the commercial need to include various elements of comic relief, and the stiff, uninteresting performance of David Manners as Peter Allison is a major liability. Nonetheless, in its best moments, The Black Cat is as powerful as any film of its era, and it represents the creative direction in which horror films of the 1930s were headed until censorship and other pressures forced them back into the mainstream.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/07/2014
UPC:
0025192139185
Original Release:
1934
Source:
Universal Mod
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
1:06:00
Sales rank:
800

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Boris Karloff Hjalmar Poelzig
Bela Lugosi Dr. Vitus Verdegast
David Manners Peter Allison
Jacqueline Wells Joan Allison
Andy Devine Actor
Lucille Lund Karen
Egon Brecher Majordomo
John Carradine Cult organist (uncredited)
Harry Cording Thalmar
Henry Armetta Sergeant
Herman Bing Car Steward
Albert Conti Lieutenant
Anna Duncan Maid
Luis Alberni Train Steward
Andre Cheron Train Conductor
Alphonse Martell Porter
Tony Marlow Patrolman
Paul Weigel Stationmaster
Albert Pollet Waiter
Rodney Hildebrand Brakeman
George Davis Bus Driver

Technical Credits
Edgar G. Ulmer Director,Screenwriter
Ray F. Curtiss Editor
John P. Fulton Special Effects
Charles Hall Art Director
Carl Laemmle Producer
John Mescall Cinematographer
Jack P. Pierce Makeup
Heinz Roemheld Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Peter Ruric Screenwriter

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