Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Movies I love: The Black Cat (1934)


"You say your soul was killed, that you have been dead all these years. And what of me? Did we not both die here in Marmorus 15 years ago? Are we any the less victims of the war than those whose bodies were torn asunder? Are we not both the living dead? And now you come to me, playing at being an avenging angel, childishly thirsting for my blood. We understand each other too well. We know too much of life."

Here's a film I can watch multiple times a year. Karloff and Lugosi's first film together, they completely knock it out of the park. Both are in top form here. One of Bela's few roles as a good guy, Dr. Werdegast. Though the doctor is so emotionally scarred he seems capable of all most anything in his vendetta against Karloff's Hjalmar Poelzig. Poelzig a architect and occultist gives Boris the opportunity to play an incredibility creepy and mannered villain. Poelzig's castle is a high-tech, art deco masterpiece of set design. A truly amazing and dark film and one of my all time favorite Universal horror pics of the '30s.
























7 comments:

Tower Farm said...

I love this one too. It is one of only 2 movies that I can think of that really scared the hell out of me as a kid.

JM

James said...

Agreed! This is such a great film - really cutting edge in terms of set design and mood. And the final scenes as Werdegast prepares to flay Poelzig - really nasty stuff for a film made in the 30s.

Ed Howard said...

This is a truly amazing film. It's so subtle and surprisingly complex in its character relationships, and the rivalry of the two main characters is a perfect venue for Lugosi and Karloff's best sparring. I also love Edgar Ulmer's skewed compositional eye: check out that amazing shot where, watching the two young lovers kiss, Lugosi clutches a statue of a naked woman in the extreme foreground. It's just a great movie in every way, sophisticated in its themes and aesthetic even as it's also a typical slightly campy, overblown Universal non-monster horror outing. As usual in these types of movies, the non-Lugosi/Karloff characters seem to have stumbled in from another set altogether, maybe a romantic comedy or a slapstick farce (like the bumbling military officers who come to visit at one point). It's a weird, wonderful film.

Incidentally, is the "Movies I Love" series inspired by my very similar "Films I Love" series? Or is it just a coincidence? Great stuff, either way.

Samuel Wilson said...

Lugosi seems ideally suited for troubled-avenger roles, and it's a shame he didn't get a chance to play that kind of part more often. It's entirely fitting that the romantic leads should seem out of their depth in this setting. Once you see them jokingly chant the name "Poelzig" you know that these poor fools have no idea what they're in for, and that's how it's supposed to be. This film is great stuff and you do it justice.

going said...

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Professor Brian O'Blivion said...

Thank you, everyone. I appreciate you sharing all the love for The Black Cat. Ed, I was indeed inspired by you and Moon in the Gutter's "Images From My All Time Favorite Films".

Howard said...

I haven't watched this movie in ages, and I know that this is the Karloff blogathon, but there's a scene, early in the film, where Lugosi speaks to a peasant/laborer in Hungarian. It's only a few seconds long, but for a few moments, Lugosi stops struggling with the English language and completely relaxes into his role. I like to think that in those few seconds, we are seeing Lugosi as his original fans in Buda-Pesth saw him.

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