The Black Cat
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer Run Time: 90 min. Format: 35mm Rating: PG Release Year: 1934
Starring: , Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, David Manners, Julie Bishop
“Supernatural, perhaps. Baloney, perhaps not. There are many things under the sun.”
King of the B’s Edgar G. Ulmer directors horror legends Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in this modernist post-WW1 revenge story.
Although named after Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Black Cat,” Ulmer’s film essentially breaks away from that storyline (although Lugosi’s character has a morbid fear of cats) to dive into the heart of post-war trauma. After Newlyweds Peter and Joan Alison, along with stranger Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi) survive a car crash in Eastern Europe, they wind up at the modernist masterpiece of Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff). This structure has been built upon the graves of soldiers and houses many ill deeds…it’s also the planned final destination of Werdegast. He has returned to the site of such horrors after decades of being a prisoner of war to seek revenge upon the treacherous Poelzig; who has done more evil than Werdegast can even imagine.
It’s hard to believe that with so many shocking points (incest, Satanism, necrophilia, and skinning someone alive) that The Black Cat is at a brilliantly slow pace, but it is. The surrounding architecture provides the perfect stark background in which the old and new worlds collide.