7.0/10
9,401
157 user 95 critic

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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2 wins. See more awards »

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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:

Things you never said before or even dreamed of! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Scheduled for a 15-day shoot and budgeted at $91,125, which allotted a $7,500 salary for Karloff, $3,000 for Lugosi, $3,125 for Manners, $900 for Wells and $150 for Lund. The actual black cat earned a depression-era $200. 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.
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Connections

Referenced in Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565)
(uncredited)
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
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User Reviews

More Enjoyable Than It Has Any Business Being
14 July 2004 | by Doghouse-6See 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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Frequently Asked Questions

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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 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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