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
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Censors in Italy, Finland and Austria banned the movie outright, while others required cuts of the more gruesome sequences. See more »
When Werdegast and Poelzig are fighting near the end of the film, Poelzig is on top of Werdegast, choking him. Werdegast then turns the tables and ends up on top of Poelzig. After Thamal (Werdegast's servant) enters the room, Poelzig is suddenly on top of Werdegast, and is choking him again. See more »
[looking over Joan's passport]
Mr. and Mrs. Alison, Car 96, Compartment F. Orient Express, Budapest, Visegrad.
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"The Black Cat", for all its flaws, is one of the most unique horror films ever made
"The Black Cat", for all its flaws, is one of the most unique horror films ever made. Its certainly the most bizarre horror film of the 30s outside of the legendary "Freaks". Plus, it unites two of the greatest genre icons of all time, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Its also one of the few occasions that Edgar G. Ulmer was able to show how talented a filmmaker he was. He only created one other notable film, the absolute masterpiece "Detour" which is possibly the greatest b-film ever made.
The main reason why the film works so well are the performances of both Karloff and Lugosi. Karloff plays one of his most deliciously evil yet charming and sophisticated characters yet. The man exudes tension whenever he appears on camera. Even better surprisingly is Lugosi. Lugosi was sometimes criticized as having charisma but no real acting skill. He is actually superb in his role as a tragic hero. This makes me wish he was given more parts such as this instead of the grade-c schlock he was confined to late on. Both of the stars have marvelous interplay, especially the chess scene. They more than make up for the sappy performances by David Manners and Julie Bishop.
In addition to the performances, Ulmer must be given a lot of credit. His direction and story are both bizarre and throughly captivating. Also, the set design is quite surreal, coming across as art deco gone horribly wrong. Its not a perfect film, but is one of the most memorable horror films of the 30s. (7/10)
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