Greedy heirs gather to wait for the death of Henrietta Winslow. Murder, thunder claps, howling cats, gun shots, screams in the night, hidden passages -- all the proper ingredients.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
That isn't saying that The Black Cat is a bad film, in fact to me it's pretty good. Just that considering the cast and idea it could have been better than it was.
What did let The Black Cat down in particular is Hugh Herbert, whose comedy was always an acquired taste(not a fan personally to be honest) but here he is very over-utilised and really got on my nerves. Bela Lugosi despite looking appropriately ghoulish(that ghoulish close-up is the most memorable his performance gets) and does a good job with his screen time but is wasted, not just because he doesn't have much to do but also his material is not an awful lot to write home about. The film really drags in the middle and not all the script works. The mystery parts are great and Crawford's quip to Rathbone was a delight but parts are a little melodramatic and the comedy with Herbert was like Herbert himself, more annoying than funny.
The Black Cat looks great though, it's very elegantly photographed and the sets/scenery are beautiful and creepy. The music is a little intrusive in places but it's effectively eerie and has a lot of energy as well. The mystery while having pacing issues in the middle is very compelling and suspenseful mostly, with a truly gripping ending that took me completely by surprise. The direction is never too flashy or simplistic and most of the acting is just. Gale Sondergaard is effectively mysterious and the personification of elegance, while Alan Ladd before he made it big plays it straight and more than decently and Gladys Cooper brings bags of class to her role. Broderick Crawford is likable and a lot of fun, his material works far better than Herbert's and he's much better used. Basil Rathbone does his usual solid job in a role that suits him very well and Anne Gwynne is sympathetic and not bland.
All in all, pretty good but could have been great considering the cast. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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