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137 user 65 critic

The Black Cat (1934)

American honeymooners in Hungary become 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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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Hjalmar Poelzig (as Karloff)
...
...
...
Joan Alison (as Jacqueline Wells)
Egon Brecher ...
The Majordomo
...
Thamal
Lucille Lund ...
Karen
...
The Sergeant
Albert Conti ...
The Lieutenant
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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:

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Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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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:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Censors in Italy, Finland and Austria banned the movie outright, while others required cuts of the more gruesome sequences. See more »

Goofs

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 »

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

Featured in Svengoolie: The Black Cat (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Rhapsody in B minor (Op. 79, No. 1)
(uncredited)
Music by Johannes Brahms
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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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