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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There's a lot of story to tell in about 65 minutes, so this movie could be considered perhaps a bit incoherent. But the larger themes -- revenge, lust and innocents caught in the grip of forces beyond their sheltered experience -- have been central themes in horror tales for centuries.
Karloff is a delight as usual, and there are many fine details to his performance -- including a brief but outrageously lustful stare at the half-dressed young wife of the innocent couple and the strangely gentle way his brutal character handles a cat. (Nice tall, dark and handsome kitty in the title role, for the cat people.)
And this movie also shows once again that Bela Lugosi was a better actor than he ever got credit for. He handles his overwrought dialogue with taste and good cheer, and he's a marvel. And he even gets to speak a few rare lines of Hungarian here.
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