21 September 2014

The Black Cat (1941)
70 min.
Directed by Albert S. Rogell.
With Basil Rathbone, Broderick Crawford, Bela Lugosi, Gale Sondergaard, Gladys Cooper, Hugh Herbert, Anne Gwynne, Cecilia Loftus, Alan Ladd, Claire Dodd, John Eldredge.
Rathbone? Lugosi? Sondergaard? Sometimes an all star ensemble cast can prove too much for a flick, and that's the case with this 1941 old house mystery.

Still, it's passable fun. Crotchety Henrietta Winslow (Loftus) is super wealthy and nearing death, so her greedy heirs gather to hear what they'll get when she kicks the bucket. Only, Henrietta is no fool. She's got a few tricks up her sleeve before she parts with her millions.

Could one of her tricks be a plan to knock off the entire Winslow clan, one by one? Or does someone else want Henrietta's loot all to himself? Whatever the truth may be, the reality is that the Winslow family is getting smaller by the minute. Perhaps the culprit is the shady groundskeeper Eduardo (Lugosi). Or maybe it's the serpentine Abigail (Sondergaard).

This Universal horror is a minor effort that threatens to be undermined by the light comedy of Herbert. Thankfully, things stick together, and the cast seems to be having a good time with the action.

Rathbone is underused - a pity - but Sondergaard and Lugosi add just the right touch of dark shadow to this Edgar Allan Poe-inspired triviality. Watch it on a rainy night.

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