22 August 2014

The Black Cat (1934)
65 min.
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.
With Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, David Manners, Jacqueline Wells, Lucille Lund, Egon Brecher, Harry Cording.
Both Lugosi and Karloff are equally mesmerizing in this bizarre '30s horror - a moody and surreal classic completely made from its own mold.

Just released from prison, psychiatrist Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) is on a deadly mission of revenge. Seems his old war colleague-turned-devil worshipper Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff) stole Vitus' wife and daughter some 15 years back...and Vitus wants Poelzig to pay for the crime with his hide - literally.

In the meantime, an unlucky pair of Yank honeymooners (Manners, Wells) get caught in the diabolical gameplay between Werdegast and Poelzig. Anyone's guess whether any of them will survive this masterpiece of destruction?

Enchantingly photographed and boasting one magical art deco set after another, Black Cat owes little to author Edgar Allan Poe and nearly everything to director Ulmer and leads Karloff and Lugosi. Karloff's presence as the calculating Poelzig is a study in controlled severity - matched only by a genuinely sympathetic turn from the heartbroken Lugosi.

Best scene: the climactic scene where Lugosi deskins a shackled Karloff. Double yikes!

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