Friday, January 29, 2010

84. The Black Cat (1934)

Running Time: 64 minutes
Directed By: Edgar G. Ulmer
Written By: Edgar G. Ulmer, from the story House of Doom by Edgar Allan Poe
Main Cast: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Julie Bishop


I have to say, after enjoying "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" as much as I did, I figured this would be a no brainer for an enjoyable film for me, but it turned out to be a very tedious and dull sixty minutes, that unfortunately, I'll never get back.

Mr. and Mrs. Peter Alison are vacationing in Hungary and while riding by train, they're informed of a mix-up in the reservations and that they must share a train compartment with Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi). While on the train ride, Werdegast informs them that he's spent the last fifteen years in a prison camp and that he has become one of very few to walk away from the camp alive. Once exiting the train, the three share a bus into the nearest town, but it ends up crashing and Mrs. Alison is slightly injured. Dr. Werdegast, is on his way to visit Hjalmar Poelzig, am Austrian architect, with whom Werdergast has some unfinished business. Upon arriving at the home the doctor treats Mrs. Alison's injuries and then confronts Poelzig, revealing that he believes Poelzig has captured his wife and daughter, while he was in prison, and that he wants them returned to him. Poelzig informs Werdegast that they've both died.

The rest of the movie revolves around Poelzig's desire to keep Mr. and Mrs. Alison at his home, and that he particularly wants Mrs. Alison so that he may sacrifice her on the night of the Dark Moon, to comply with his satanic rituals. Werdegast, however, wants them to be set free and the two play a game of chess to make the final decision regarding the fate of Mr. and Mrs. Alison. The title of the film refers to the heightened phobia that Werdegast has of black cat's, but that's only addressed a couple of times in the film and never really becomes much of a plot point.

Despite the silly title of the picture, a lot of things actually go unexplained in the film, which lead to my eventual dislike of the movie altogether. The fear of black cat's seems to be something they just threw in for no reason, and it's never fully explained or played off of. They also fail to explain the reasoning behind why Poelzig keeps his former lovers dead bodies encased in glass, other than the fact to make the man seem a little more creepy. There's also a scene where Mrs. Alison, rises from her slumber, right after she's been in the bus crash. She comes into the room and is acting very peculiar, and it's even mentioned, as Mr. Alison asks why she was acting that way and Werdegast makes up some phony excuse, but that ends up being yet another point of the film that's never fully explained. Karloff and Lugosi aren't bad, but even their talents can't save this terrible picture. This was a very sad attempt at a horror movie and honestly, I wouldn't even clasify it as such. Lots of plot holes and unexplained details, make "The Black Cat" a bust.

RATING: 1.5/10 Despite better than average ratings for "Frankenstein" and "Dracula", this film couldn't even muster a '2'.

NEXT UP: Judge Priest...My first John Ford film...from the "1001" book, that is and the review should be up later on this afternoon.

January 29, 2010 1:34pm

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