Tag Archives: Edgar G. Ulmer

XL Popcorn – The Black Cat

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
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Title: The Black Cat
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Year: 1934
Country: USA

When you think of the old Universal horror films the images of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in their Frankenstein and Dracula make-up instantly comes to mind. Considering how lucrative those films were it was little wonder that Universal put them in a film together… albeit a rather nonsensical one.

Let’s start off with the biggest weirdness of this film – the fact that the credits say that The Black Cat is inspired by the short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe. The film and the story have nearly nothing in common except for the name and the presence of a black cat. That’s it.

Then we have the plot, which involves the aftermath of an Eastern European war, a newly-married couple being held hostage in a Art Deco house and some light Satanism. There’s even a bit where the ‘heroine’ is drugged and starts acting all weird (which apparently turns on Karloff’s character so much that he starts caressing the leg of a statue).

Here’s the thing though. Despite the fact that this film seemed utterly bananas and descended into satanic ritual where one of the characters ends up being flayed, I found myself intrigued all the way through. At no point was this scary – because every ounce of emotion is played with the nuance of a sledgehammer – but it was weird and off-putting, which is nearly as good.

It was also a real treat to see Karloff and Lugosi in a film together, especially in one where neither of them was made up like a monster. Sure, I don’t understand how Lugosi at this time was seen as sexy, but that’s by the by.

The Black Cat really is one of those horror films where it pays to have friends to make fun of it with. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good film, it’s just that  there is enough weirdness here in terms of topic, plot holes and over acting that would make it entertaining for a bad movie night.

XL Popcorn – Detour

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 613/1007
Title: Detour
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Year: 1945
Country: USA

On the surface it Detour is a really odd movie to find a place on so many best of lists. It has a runtime of just over an hour, had a very rushed production and features two fairly one-note actors. However, it just works. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does.

However, this film probably would have ended up nearly forgotten if it wasn’t for the final third. The lead actor in this, Tom Neal, is not a lead actor. Honestly, I’m not entirely convinced that he could ever have had a career outside of B-movies. So that means most of this film just feels rather rickety. And then Ann Savage shows up.

As with Tom Neal, this is an actress that didn’t have a fruitful career. She spends the entire movie with a scowl on her face and a series of pissed-off snarky one-liners coming out of her mouth. Her presence onscreen is magnetic and resulted in me laughing out loud a number of times.

So, yes, Ann Savage turns this B-movie noir from being a curiosity to something generally interesting. Also, it provides an example of a non-major studio release that was able to garner some degree of notice. I can’t think of how many examples of this there would be from the 1940s outside of weird sci-fi.

I guess what also helped was how this film depicts a man being completely destroyed by the randomness. He’s not a bad person, but he ends up broke and being implicated in two murders. The world makes him his bitch and watching it unfurl for an hour was good fun. Probably not a classic, but a good example of its genre.