Sunday, January 22, 2012

#411: The Black Cat

Directed by: EDGAR G. ULMER
1934, TSPDT Rank #987

How I ever got so lucky to watch and review not one but TWO masterpieces in the same day is beyond me. I almost hope I get to review something I consider terrible in the near future so that any new readers don't think I write exclusively in hyperbole. However, you can trust that I am a discerning viewer (see reviews of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the archives), and that I really do mean it sincerely when I call a film a masterpiece. Anyhow, on with the review.

The Black Cat is by far my favorite of the '30s Universal horror films that I've seen so far. And what's more, it seems to be basically unknown to the majority of viewers, save the more serious film buffs (including myself, I suppose). It far surpasses the two most famous films of this group, Dracula and Frankenstein, but however, the respective stars of those films (Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff) share the screen together here - and with very great success. The chemistry between all of the actors, especially the two leads, is nothing short of miraculous. Edgar G. Ulmer's direction of this brilliant, twisted material is just perfect - the pacing seamless, and all of the insane plot twists advanced with delicate subtlety - which makes the material all the more potent. Watching this today, and knowing it was made it the 1930s, would cause most to assume it was a pre-code film, but shockingly enough - it wasn't! Pay attention during the entire climax and final encounter between Karloff and Lugosi, and marvel at the fact that The Black Cat was passed with no argument by the ultra-conservative Hays Code. How that ever happened, I have no clue, but I guess it just adds another layer to the mystique this bizarre gem has already built up for itself. So if you happen to watch this film, consider yourself one of the lucky ones - you will have just watched one of the great early American horror films.

(Rating: 10/10)

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