Robert Miles is a psychic that can communicate with the dead. He also has the ability to control the mind of his cat (who incidentally is black). He uses the cat to take vengeance upon his ... See full summary »
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The satanic prayer Poelzig chants during the black mass scene consists of random phrases in Latin, the most recognizable being "cum grano salis" (with a grain of salt). The complete chant, is as follows:
Latin Phrases: Cum grano salis. Fortis cadere cedere non potest. Humanum est errare. Lupis pilum mutat, non mentem. Magna est veritas et praevalebit. Acta exteriora indicant interiora secreta. Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem. Amissum quod nescitur non amittitur. Brutum fulmen. Cum grano salis. Fortis cadere cedere non potest. Fructu, non foliis arborem aestima. Insanus omnes furere credit ceteros. Quem paenitet peccasse paene est innocens.
English translation: With a grain of salt. A brave man may fall, but he cannot yield. To err is human. The wolf may change his skin, but not his nature. Truth is mighty, and will prevail. External actions show internal secrets. Remember when life's path is steep to keep your mind even. The loss that is not known is no loss at all. Heavy thunder. With a grain of salt. A brave man may fall, but he cannot yield. By fruit, not by leaves, judge a tree. Every madman thinks everybody mad. Who repents from sinning is almost innocent. See more »
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 »
[looking over Joan's passport]
Mr. and Mrs. Alison, Car 96, Compartment F. Orient Express, Budapest, Visegrad.
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Travelling across Eastern Europe, Peter and Joan Allison meet Dr Werdegast on the train. When the bus taking them to their destination crashes, the Allisons go with Werdegast and stay with him at the foreboding castle of Hjalmar Poelzig. However the Allisons find themselves in danger when it becomes apparent that Werdegast and Poelzig have a deadly history with each other.
Although it carries the title of his book and a credit for him on the titles, this film has little to do with Poe's work. In fact, in terms of plotting, it owes very little to anybody because, aside from the actual set up, the plot just goes all to hell very quickly. The set up is interesting and I wanted to know more about the history between these two men, then there is the thing about the black cat and Werdegast, not to mention the fact that Poelzig seems to be very interested in reading about satanic cults! However, none of this is really fully explained - this is partly due to the short run time and so much material, but it must also be blamed on the film not having a strong focus other than atmosphere.
The film still works well as the plot crumbles, but it is a little unsatisfying as it leaves so many half stories and unanswered questions. What it does do well though is atmosphere, the direction is cheap but effective and the lighting works wonders in a cheap set! The cast also contribute to this focus on atmosphere (or style) over plot (or substance). Karloff overdoes things, but he overdoes them very well! There is no real need for him to be as ominous as he is at the start but it is what we have come to expect from him. Lugosi may have tarnished his reputation towards the end of his career, but he is good here. It's hard not to laugh when seeing him convulsed with fear over the cat but he plays it well for the most part. Manners and Wells are both OK but are very much the onscreen representation of the audience and simply have to act shocked by everything and run away lots!
Overall this is a good film but only because of the atmosphere and the influence of two legendary stars in the cast. The plot had potential but not enough time is allowed for it to be explored and the focus is more on the atmosphere than the construction.
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