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The Black Cat (1934)

7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 5,599 users  
Reviews: 127 user | 58 critic

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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Title: The Black Cat (1934)

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Cast

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

Storyline

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 <srgrimm@teleport.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Karloff and Lugosi together! Those stars of "Frankenstein" and "Dracula". (Newspaper ad cut). See more »


Certificate:

See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

7 May 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Vanishing Body  »

Box Office

Budget:

$95,745 (estimated)

Gross:

$236,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The set of the main room in Poelzig's house were built for $1,500. See more »

Goofs

None of the organ music matches the notes the characters are playing. This is most visible when Karloff is playing Toccata and Fugue in D minor late in the film. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in The Fallen Vampire (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Symphony no. 8 (Unfinished)
(uncredited)
Music by Franz Schubert
Heard on radio in film
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

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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