Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Black Cat (1934)

We've made it. It's finally here! Happy October!

I wanted to get at least one movie from the 1930s in this month and I realized I never talked about The Black Cat which is one of my favorites from the Universal golden age of horror that not many people know about. If I remember correctly this was the first film to bring the two biggest horror stars of the time in one picture, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and I have to say they bring their all into this movie. The story follows a couple on their honeymoon that meet a doctor by the name of Vitus Werdegast played by Lugosi, who suffer a car crash on the way to Hjalmar Poelzig's house with Poelzig played by Karloff. Very soon when you meet Werdegast you suspect there's something more to this trip and it is soon revealed that Poelzig betrayed him during wartime and now he seeks vengeance. That's the basics but there's more to touch on later. Besides the two titans of terror how's the rest of the cast? Well at first I found the couple to be pretty standard for 1930s cinema but they grew on me a little and you don't wish any ill will toward them, but let's be honest you see this movie because of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and they play their parts expertly. Lugosi plays the part with sophistication and determination, fuelled by his hatred for the man who ruined his life, he was tortured during a war and says his soul was slowly killed so there's a level of madness to him though he is our protagonist. Karloff is imposing and devilishly evil, and rightly so because it is revealed he is a Satanist and intends to sacrifice the newly wedded wife, but the film builds his character up incredibly well and you want to see him get his comeuppance. This is a wonderfully shot movie with beautiful set design that feels both gothic and surprisingly modern. Poelzig's home is amazing and wouldn't feel out of place even in today's market, but has a dark underbelly that is creepy and morbid. I'm always surprised by the cinematography in this film, you just hardly ever saw such films being made this way, with switching focuses on foreground and background, seeing characters through the use of mirrors, and the use of light and shadows throughout, it might not be much but such experimental effort gets bonus points from me. You saw this type of filmmaking more often in foreign cinema than the Hollywood industry. I have no doubts the movie was banned in certain places in it's time, dealing with torture, revenge, Satanism, necrophilia, and human sacrifice, this was an entirely different beast for that time period. But it has that atmosphere, class acting, and grim subject matter to entertain any horror fan. I will say though they took the title from a story by Edgar Allan Poe, it has nothing to do with it, there is a black cat but it's used as a symbol of undying evil and is the phobia of Werdegast. Me personally, I would treasure such a creature, so deem me a Satanist if you wish but I'm a great admirer of black cats. This is a lesser known gem of the Universal library and you should see it, don't worry about runtime, you can finish it in barely over an hour. Yeah, I'm almost certain it was part of a double bill but it can be viewed on it's own. Definitely recommend it, 4 stars, 7.5/10, this showcases the acting talents of two great stars beyond their most iconic roles so check it out!

Well I think you know what's next, and I'm going to have the biggest smile on my face this Friday.

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