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>
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 »
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 »
[looking over Joan's passport]
Mr. and Mrs. Alison, Car 96, Compartment F. Orient Express, Budapest, Visegrad.
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"It all sounds like a lot of superstitious baloney to me."
The Black Cat is, quite simply, a horror masterpiece. Almost everything about this film is perfect. I'm not going to go into detail on the story, because if you haven't seen it, you should.
The acting is some of the best you'll ever see in a horror film. Lugosi is at the top of his game. His portrayal of Ygor in Son of Frankenstein may be Lugosi's only better performance. Karloff is wonderfully creepy and mysterious (and has some of the most bizarre hair I've ever seen). Seeing the two work together in The Black Cat is a real pleasure. Although Karloff gets top billing, this is Lugosi's film and he makes the most of it. David Manners and the rest of the cast are more than adequate.
The futuristic house in which the film is set is a departure from the more Gothic, Victorian settings of most of the Universal films. And it works. Thanks to some terrific set design, lighting, and cinematography, the modern house exudes as much atmosphere as any old castle, dungeon, tower, etc.
The Black Cat contains some of the most unsettling scenes of any classic Universal horror film. It is, IMO, the darkest of any of these films. I just wonder how it was viewed by audiences in 1934. Two scenes that immediately come to mind are the black mass performed by Karloff and the torture scene at the end of the film. These scenes are not typical of the Universal classics. They have the power to stick with you long after the movie is over.
But what I really like is the way the story unfolds. At the beginning, you know nothing of what's really going on. Bit by bit, the story unfolds. Many of the plot points are revealed by Lugosi. In fact, if it weren't for Lugosi's monologues, I wonder if anyone would have any idea of what was taking place.
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