The Black Cat (1934)

Article #8 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-24-2001
Posting date: 8-6-2001

 

A devil worshipper is visited by an old enemy who has sworn revenge on him.

This is definitely the strangest of the classic Universal horror movies of the thirties. The art deco house of Hjalmer Poelzig is even more unsettling than all the gloomy castles that make up the other movies of that era. It’s also the first movie together for Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and both of them have great roles that pit them against each other beautifully; if I’d been casting, I most likely would have reversed their roles, but I’m not so sure it would have worked any better that way than it does now. The plot is a bit muddled, most likely as a result of censorship, but the interplay between the characters is so strong, the dialogue so witty (“Do you hear that, Vitus? The phone is dead. Even the phone is dead!”), and the direction by Edgar Ulmer so strong, that it doesn’t matter. Even the comic relief sequence with the two policemen works in its own offhand way. This is one of my favorites.

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