The Black Cat (1934)

EDGAR G. ULMER

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5

USA, 1934. . Story by Edgar G. Ulmer, , Screenplay by Peter Ruric, suggested by a story by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by Edgar G. Ulmer. Film Editing by

It’s amazing how much fun a director can pack into a mere sixty-five minutes, this is one of the most beautifully striking and deliriously enjoyable of the horror films made by Universal in the thirties.  It begins when an American couple (, ) are on their honeymoon in Hungary and share a train compartment with a mysterious gentleman () who accompanies them on their bus to the town they are planning to visit.  A rainstorm causes their vehicle to crash, killing the driver and forcing the survivors (which also include Lugosi’s manservant) to find refuge in the nearest home.  If you’d seen The Most Dangerous Game two years earlier, you’d know that surviving an accident is the part that turns out to be your worst move; the party end up in the Art Deco dream of a home by a famous architect () who has built his mansion atop a former military fort that was the site of one of Hungary’s worst war atrocities and who is, as is obvious from his haircut, completely mad.  Lugosi has a score to settle with Karloff, having to do with the loss of his wife and daughter, while Manners and Bishop try to be good houseguests but find there’s suspiciously too much resistance to their attempt to leave the place once the weather improves.  The magnificence reaches its apex in the film’s climax involving subterranean vaults, dead bodies preserved behind glass to look like floating Greek statues and devil worshippers performing rituals to bring Old Scratch back to Earth.  It’s the most satisfying of all the films that involved casting both of Universal’s monstrous stars, who have terrific chemistry together; the visuals dazzle you with overtly stunning beauty while the script, in a perversely enjoyable way, tells a tale of the trauma that wars leave behind on the lands upon which they are fought, something the world was soon to find out more about in the years to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s