The Black Cat (1934)

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American honeymooners in Hungary are trapped in the home of a Satan- worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident.



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Complete credited cast:
Hjalmar Poelzig (as Karloff)
David Manners ...
Julie Bishop ...
Joan Alison (as Jacqueline Wells)
Egon Brecher ...
The Majordomo
Harry Cording ...
Lucille Lund ...
Henry Armetta ...
The Sergeant
Albert Conti ...
The Lieutenant


Honeymooning in Hungary, Joan and Peter Allison share their train compartment with Dr. Vitus Verdegast, a courtly but tragic man who is returning to the remains of the town he defended before becoming a prisoner of war for fifteen years. When their hotel-bound bus crashes in a mountain storm and Joan is injured, the travellers seek refuge in the home, built fortress-like upon the site of a bloody battlefield, of famed architect Hjalmar Poelzig. There, cat-phobic Verdegast learns his wife's fate, grieves for his lost daughter, and must play a game of chess for Allison's life. Written by Sister Grimm <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The most imaginative picture yet! (Newspaper ad cut). See more »


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Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

7 May 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Vanishing Body  »

Box Office


$95,745 (estimated)


$236,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Edgar G. Ulmer admitted in an interview that Edgar Allan Poe's story was credited to draw public attention, despite the fact it had nothing to do with the story in the movie. See more »


"And this is the old chart room for the long-range guns. The guns are gone but the charts are still here." As Poelzig speaks these words, his mouth is not moving. See more »


[first lines]
The Lieutenant: [looking over Joan's passport] Mr. and Mrs. Alison, Car 96, Compartment F. Orient Express, Budapest, Visegrad.
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Referenced in Bright Leaves (2003) See more »


Sonata in B Minor
Music by Franz Liszt
Played as background music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

More Enjoyable Than It Has Any Business Being
14 July 2004 | by (Glendale, CA) – See all my reviews

Other commentaries will fill you in on the nearly-incomprehensible plot (if that's possible) but, as has been pointed out, you don't watch a film like this for plot.

Despite the story inconsistencies and implausibilities, everything here just seems to "jell:" the fabulous sets, elegant photography, evocative music (drawing heavily from Schubert, among others) and the downright creepy atmosphere woven from the themes of jealousy, lust, revenge, murder, sadism.....all sounds delightfully sick, doesn't it? Truly, it's nowhere near as threatening as it sounds; indeed, if Astaire and Rogers had ever made a spooky thriller, it might have looked and felt something like this one. THE BLACK CAT possesses a lyrical, rhythmic quality, upon which we drift through a sleek, ultra-modern nightmare world.

One of the reasons it all works is its ability to pull us into a sort of parallel universe which, though it looks more or less like reality as we know it, glides along on a barely-concealed undercurrent - an "atmosphere of death," as Lugosi's character puts it - where things happen that "could never actually happen" (an inside reference for those who know the film).

There are some wonderful set-pieces, such as Karloff's tour through a most unusual basement mausoleum/museum memorializing all of his dearly departed earlier "wives." And of course, Boris and Bela deliver, with their restrained but full-bodied performances. Karloff conveys menace just entering a room, and Lugosi has an all-too-rare opportunity to display some tenderness; notice the single tear that rolls down his face as he learns - and sees - what became of the wife that Karloff stole from him years before.

A very stylized - and stylish - film which grants us the unusual treat of seeing Lugosi play a (more or less) "good guy," and the unique one of hearing him pronounce the word "baloney," as only he could.

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