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.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.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.
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.
- Jul 14, 2004