The Black Cat (1934)
Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer. Written by: Edgar G. Ulmer and Peter Ruric.
Plot: A young couple (David Manners & Jacqueline Wells) somehow wind up staying at the house of this really creepy dude (Boris Karloff) who has his wife’s corpse floating in a vat of embalming fluid in his basement. I think he’s a Satan worshipper. It’s up to Bela Lugosi, who was married to the lady in the embalming fluid before creepy Satan worshipping weirdo got to her, to save them. Which is sort of like being caught between Captain Creepy and Captain Creepy II. Like escaping getting turned into jerky by Larry King only to find yourself at Molesty Joe’s House of Many Hands (this is a real place I‘m afraid…). That was slightly off topic but dammit, I’m tired and this review is boring.
Review: I remember thinking this movie was vaguely boring when I watched it, but, in retrospect, it actually creeped me out a lot. Particularly the wife floating in the embalming fluid. That’s just weird. Although, hell, if I ever die that’s how I want to be preserved.
Apparently, this is the first film Karloff and Lugosi did together - they did something like six more afterwards including The Body Snatcher, The Raven and Son of Frankenstein - which is cool I guess. They’re both pretty good, playing mortal enemies (Bela is a little pissed about the whole wife/embalming fluid thing, as it happens) and the requisite young lovers (who of course must be there because who would want to watch a movie about two weird old guys duking it out? Other than me) were surprisingly not obnoxious. I mean, they were slightly obnoxious, but I thought they were actually pretty good, unlike the usual obnoxious little skanks who got inserted into this kind of movie at the time. Their relationship was somewhat believable. They had chemistry, as they say in the business.
Anyway, most people tend to go on and on about the architecture in this movie, which is I suppose interesting because rather than living in an old gothic cobweb-laden castle the Satan worshipping pervert lives in a very clean, very modern, almost futuristic mansion. I don’t remember if they ever go into the kitchen, but I bet he had like a blender and a microwave and everything. What a guy. If only he wasn’t such a weirdo. Of course, I personally would rather have a man with an old dusty medieval castle than a man with a microwave. Mind you, either way I’d probably end up cleaning it and a microwave is much easier.
Moving on, this movie is kind of spooky and it’s good to see Lugosi play the hero for once. Also, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the story by Poe. Supposedly they took inspiration from it thematically or something, but it doesn’t really show. They do throw in a thing about Lugosi being terrified of cats but other than that there isn’t much of a connection.
Yup. This is one of those weird/cool/über gothic horror pics from the thirties that is sort of spooky and very neat from a historical standpoint. Yay.
Favourite Part: The wife in the embalming fluid clearly disturbed me far more than anything else. I mean... it's really creepy. Also, the fact that the guy then turned around and married her daughter. Like, wow. Weird. He was a pretty creepy guy. It's interesting because normally the guys in these kinds of movies are a little on the odd side, sure, but pretty cute and endearing nonetheless. But Karloff in this movie is just totally fucking creepy and gross. It's different.
Other versions: Not really.
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