Thursday, June 27, 2019

THE BLACK CAT (1934) Blu-ray Review

The Black Cat (1934) d. Edgar G. Ulmer (USA) (65 min)

Bearing no resemblance to the original story by Edgar Allan Poe, this atmosphere-drenched offering from Austrian expatriate Ulmer is a superior piece of filmmaking, made all the more historic for marking the first and finest on-screen teaming of horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

The storyline of mysterious doctor Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) and an American couple (David Manners, Julie Bishop) taking refuge during a rainstorm in a secluded Hungarian mansion is a bit muddled (due in part to studio interference and editing by Universal). But Ulmer and his two leads make up for it with sheer presence, swift pacing, and a dreamlike “atmosphere of death,” as one character puts it, that pervades throughout.

Karloff (as resident Satanist/scientist Hjalmar Poelzig) and Lugosi square off admirably, playing a figurative and literal game of chess with one another, their characters’ dark history revealing itself layer by layer, with the tension mounting to a memorable and satisfying climax. The delight in watching these two hugely popular stars at the top of their game is palpable, and one can easily forgive the film its minor flaws in logic and dull supporting characters. The director’s heightened noir is stylized, to be sure, but undeniably engaging, with special kudos to Charles D. Hall’s exemplary art direction.


NEW audio commentary with author/film historian Gregory William Mank

NEW audio commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman

NEW “Dreams Within a Dream: The Classic Cinema of Edgar Allan Poe” narrated by Doug Bradley

NEW “A Good Game: Karloff And Lugosi At Universal Part One: The Black Cat

Vintage Footage – The Black Cat Contest

Still Gallery

The Black Cat is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 (along with The Raven, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday) and can be ordered HERE:


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