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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.

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 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:

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Parents Guide:

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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)

Gross USA:

$236,000
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

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 »

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 »

Connections

Referenced in Bright Leaves (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565)
(uncredited)
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"It all sounds like a lot of superstitious baloney to me."
4 February 2005 | by bensonmum2See all my reviews

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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