The first and best teaming of horror stars Karloff and Lugosi was this bizarre, haunting, and hypnotic film by director Ulmer.
Not an adaptation of Poe but rather a strikingly effective evocation of the twisted world of his literature, the story concerns a young couple, Peter (Manners) and Joan (Wells), who meet mysterious scientist Dr. Vitus Verdegast (Lugosi) while on their honeymoon in Budapest. The trio wind up at the
home of Verdegast's old "friend" Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff), an architect living atop a mountain in a modernistic, Art Deco mansion.
As it turns out, Poelzig is the leader of a satanic cult who, as a commander during WWI, caused the capture of Verdegast and the deaths of thousands of their countrymen in a bloody battle. While Verdegast rotted in prison, the architect stole his wife, who later died (he keeps her corpse in a
glass case), then married Verdegast's daughter. Verdegast has now come for revenge, and Peter and Joan find themselves caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
A remarkable study of evil containing some unusually brutal scenes in its frenzied climax, THE BLACK CAT is still one of the most affecting horrors the genre has ever produced. With supreme directorial skill, Ulmer infuses the film with an overwhelming sense of unease, eroticism, and dread that
remains powerful to this day. The literate script, magnificent set design, superbly fluid camerawork, and stunning performances by Karloff (whose character was inspired by occult hedonist Aleister Crowley) and Lugosi lend the film a timeless quality. Ulmer would go on to direct such low-budget
classics as DETOUR (1945), but this is his masterpiece.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The first and best teaming of horror stars Karloff and Lugosi was this bizarre, haunting, and hypnotic film by director Ulmer. Not an adaptation of Poe but rather a strikingly effective evocation of the twisted world of his literature, the story concerns… (more)