The Black Cat DVD
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Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Produced in 1934
Main Language - ENGLISH
Countries & Regions - American film
This is prime horror fare for those pin-up boys of thirties horror, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Japanese-style silk pajamas have never been as scary as they are on Karloff’s black-hearted Hjalmar Poelzig, a Satanist who gives shelter to a honeymooning couple Peter and Joan Alison and ex-POW psychiatrist Lugosi after their involvement in a road accident. Trapped in his ultra-modern mansion, the couple soon learn of Karloff’s dark past (he betrayed Lugosi during the war) and of his even darker intentions: to use the injured Joan for evil black magic purposes, just as he did with Lugosi’s late wife.
This first pairing of Lugosi and Karloff is their best dual vehicle, with Lugosi surprisingly effective in a sympathetic role (miles away from the cartoon-like ham he became) and Karloff reliable as ever as the personification of creeping evil. Loosely based on an Edgar Allan Poe story, The Black Cat is further distinguished by its oppressively clinical Art Deco sets and superbly shadowy lighting, and from the elements of eroticism and sadism that director Ulmer managed to slip in just before that jug-eared puritan Will Hays got his hands on Hollywood.
Julian Upton on 8th October 2007
Author of 172 reviews
The first and possibly greatest pairing of Karloff and Lugosi. It may have a ludicrous plot and a nonsensical satanic ritual, but this is the nearest Hollywood got to real German Expressionism. The glorious set design (all art-deco and Bauhaus) is in total contrast to the gothic castles of your average horror film, and allows superb use of light and shadow.
Lugosi plays Dr Werdegast, a freed POW seeking news of his wife and daughter and vengeance on Hjalmar Poelzig, the man whose betrayal lead to his imprisonment and the deaths of thousands of his countrymen during the war. He tracks him down to his castle and soon discovers the diabolical secrets held within its walls. Poelzig is now the leader of a satanic cult, engaging in macabre practises and rituals. One man’s pure evil against the other’s tormented need for revenge leads to an absorbing battle and a shocking climax.
Length: 65 mins
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 27th May 2013
Cat No: SPAL013