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The Black Cat (1934)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Crime, Horror | 7 May 1934 (USA)
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.

Director:

Edgar G. Ulmer

Writers:

Edgar Allan Poe (suggested by a story by), Peter Ruric (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Boris Karloff ... Hjalmar Poelzig (as Karloff)
Bela Lugosi ... Dr. Vitus Werdegast
David Manners ... Peter Alison
Julie Bishop ... Joan Alison (as Jacqueline Wells)
Egon Brecher Egon Brecher ... The Majordomo
Harry Cording ... Thamal
Lucille Lund ... Karen
Henry Armetta ... 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:

The most imaginative picture yet! (Newspaper ad cut). See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Latin | Hungarian

Release Date:

7 May 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Vanishing Body See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$95,745 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Boris Karloff's character is named after Austrian architect and art director Hans Poelzig. Poelzig worked on The Golem (1920), on which director Edgar G. Ulmer was set designer. See more »

Goofs

The adjoining door connecting Joan's room to Peter's changes from a sliding door (in scenes in the first half of the film) to a hinge-opening door (beginning when the black cat enters Joan's room followed by Karen and thereafter). 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 »


Soundtracks

Tasso, Poem No.2, R.413
(uncredited)
Music by Franz Liszt
Played as background music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Visually stunning
20 March 2009 | by pastier-1See all my reviews

I won't comment about the acting or plot -- there's plenty of that here already. What I'd rather do is call attention to the visuals -- the cinematography, lighting, costuming, and especially the set design.

Normally, horror films take place in ancient settings -- crude medieval fortresses and rustic castles that are dark, cluttered and gloomy. But this one is set in a perversely utopian sci-fi fantasy -- the clean lined, impeccably detailed, generously glazed modernistic and (usually) radiantly lit white-and-silver upper floor interiors of the house.

The lower floor is an expressionistic prison, also clean lined, but still dungeon-like with its windowless walls of exposed board-formed concrete. An elegant steel spiral staircase connects the two, and the angular expressionism reaches its culmination in the chamber used for the black mass.

Karloff's costumes recall Oskar Schemmer's Bauhaus-produced work -- angular, broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted and elegant. Even the haircut of this man of the future in sharp and angular. His character is an engineer and architect and is given the name -- Poelzig -- of a famous expressionist German architect and film set designer of the time, who was a colleague of the director on an earlier film. The elegant futurism in carried down to the detail level, including a digital night-table clock and an abstract chess set. Much of the genius of this movie is that it breaks the horror-movie visual mold, and floods it with light, creating a fascinating tension between plot and setting.


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