Peter and Joan Allison are on their honeymoon in beautiful Hungary when they meet a man, through unfortunate circumstance, and are thrust together for the following peculiar events, which involve a World War, a bus accident, flaying, and Satanism.
First Half Review
Well, this is an interesting one. It’s part of Universals big Horror push in the 30s and 40s which gave us, the “Wolfman”, “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”; the stars of the latter 2 pairing up in this “adaptation” of Edgar Alan Poe’s “Black Cat”. This, however, would be like calling the new World War Z movie an adaptation of the book, when it is merely just taking the name and slapping a different story on it.
The story follows a newlywed couple, who we are supposed to relate with, going on their honeymoon to the exotic location of Transylvania Hungary. We meet our hero/protagonist in the form of Bella “Count Dracula” Lugosi, who is going to meet his Austrian “friend” I presume. The movie has not dated well but the story holds up to a degree.
So the Austrian friend is played by Boris “Frankenstein” Karloff. On the way to meet him the couple’s bus crashes inexplicably and the wife of the newly wed is injured, but luckily Karloff’s character is a Doctor and is able to treat her. Karloff’s home is built on a fort where 1000s of Hungarian people were slaughtered in the war. Lugosi accuses Karloff of betraying the Hungarians to the Russians and stealing his wife while he was in a Russian Prison camp, at this point a black cat appears and Lugosi with a Gambit style reflex kills the cat with a scalpel he throws at it.
Now this movie when it came out was considered gruesome. The reason? Karloff’s character keeps dead embalmed women as trophies, in display cases like Barbie’s. This escalates quite quickly to us seeing Karloff in bed with a beautiful woman, while reading “The Rites of Lucifer” so yeah, he’s also a Satanist. We learn he wants to sacrifice the newlywed bride to his Dark Lord. In the final 20 minutes we discover that one of the women in the display cases is Lugosi’s wife who died shortly before he arrived and that the blonde women he is now in a relation with is Lugosi’s daughter. So you can tell this won’t end well.
The movie, for it’s time, was considered extremely gory. There is one part where we don’t see anything but the description itself is off putting to say the least. In the 60+ minutes the movie is onscreen we are subjected to scenes which involves, necrophilia, ailurophobia, drugs, a deadly game of chess, torture, flaying, and a black mass with a human sacrifice.
Granted, as I said, by today’s standards these are all quite tame for the time this was a horrific thing to subject audiences too.
It’s an interesting watch for those who enjoy the horror movie genre and it has to be noted of one of the first movies to use a continuous soundtrack all the way through. Also that music you thought was from the Phantom of the Opera? It’s actually from this.
Second Half Review
This movie came out of the box this evening. I added it in during a spate of old movie adds, so when I pulled it out, I wasn’t even sure what this movie was about. Apparently, it was the biggest box office draw in 1934. Maybe its a different time, but I’m unsure as to why!
The story revolves around 4 people. Peter and Joan Allison, a newly married couple who seem to be pulled along by Karloff and Lugosi’s Poelzig and Wedergast, respectively. The two men have known each other for years and long open wounds are brought to the surface once more.
The movie is a simple affair. The story seems to be straight forward enough, with the addition of rather peculiar plot devices, such as titular Black Cat and a random Satanic ritual. The movie moves from being pleasantly old fashioned to rather dark very quickly, and the viewer is left with an unsettled feeling as the movie bounds from dark vision to quirky classic.
Lugosi and Karloff are icons of horror movie genre and it was refreshing to see them in a movie without the make up and prosthetics. It’s kind of nice to think that when people, even now, decades after Lugosi played his synonymous role as Dracula, people imitate his accent when they pretend to be a vampire.
I enjoyed this movie. It was simple, it was straight forward, and unnerving at times. A good watch.
TL: DR First Half: If you have a spare hour give it a go
TL; DR Second Half: Black Cats really do have 9 lives…