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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When re-released by Realart Pictures in the early 1950s, the film's title was changed to "The Vanishing Body" in an attempt to distinguish it from a 1941 Universal film with the same title, The Black Cat (1941), to which Realart also had the distribution rights. 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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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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