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.