7.0/10
9,802
159 user 93 critic

The Black Cat (1934)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Crime, Horror | 7 May 1934 (USA)
American honeymooners in Hungary become trapped in the home of a Satan-worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident.

Director:

Edgar G. Ulmer

Writers:

Edgar Allan Poe (suggested by a story by), Peter Ruric (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
2 wins. See more awards »

Photos

Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Boris Karloff ... Hjalmar Poelzig (as Karloff)
Bela Lugosi ... Dr. Vitus Werdegast
David Manners ... Peter Alison
Julie Bishop ... Joan Alison (as Jacqueline Wells)
Egon Brecher Egon Brecher ... The Majordomo
Harry Cording ... Thamal
Lucille Lund ... Karen
Henry Armetta ... The Sergeant
Albert Conti ... The Lieutenant
Edit

Storyline

Honeymooning in Hungary, Joan and Peter Allison share their train compartment with Dr. Vitus Verdegast, a courtly but tragic man who is returning to the remains of the town he defended before becoming a prisoner of war for fifteen years. When their hotel-bound bus crashes in a mountain storm and Joan is injured, the travellers seek refuge in the home, built fortress-like upon the site of a bloody battlefield, of famed architect Hjalmar Poelzig. There, cat-phobic Verdegast learns his wife's fate, grieves for his lost daughter, and must play a game of chess for Allison's life. Written by Sister Grimm <srgrimm@teleport.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

BORIS KARLOFF BELA LUGOSI "FRANKENSTEIN" AND "DRACULA" TOGETHER IN THE BLACK CAT (Print Ad- Albany Times-Union, ((Albany NY)) 5 May 1934) See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The ill-fated bus driver is a direct homage to the doorman in The Last Laugh (1924), on which Edgar G. Ulmer worked as Production Designer. See more »

Goofs

When Werdegast and Poelzig are fighting near the end of the film, Poelzig is on top of Werdegast, choking him. Werdegast then turns the tables and ends up on top of Poelzig. After Thamal (Werdegast's servant) enters the room, Poelzig is suddenly on top of Werdegast, and is choking him again. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
The Lieutenant: [looking over Joan's passport] Mr. and Mrs. Alison, Car 96, Compartment F. Orient Express, Budapest, Visegrad.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Cineficción Radio: Ocultismo (2020) See more »

Soundtracks

Les Preludes
(uncredited)
Music by Franz Liszt
Played as background music
See more »

User Reviews

Karloff & Lugosi together for the first time
10 August 2002 | by cdautenSee all my reviews

THE BLACK CAT (1934) Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Julie Bishop Directed by Edgar Ulmer

The first film to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, THE BLACK CAT was, and remains, innovative and strange. The opening credits claim the film was "suggested by" the Edgar Alan Poe story, but other than the title there is absolutely no connection.

Lugosi gets to play a good guy for a change and he handles it very well. In fact, I might venture to say that the role of Dr. Vitus Werdegast is Lugosi's finest performance, perhaps because it is so much of a departure from the role of Dracula. Karloff plays Hjalmar Poelzig, a Satanic architect with a really freaky hairdo. David Manners and Julie Bishop portray the Allisons, an American couple honeymooning in Hungary (doesn't everyone?).

The real star of this film, though, is the house. What an incredible set! The house, designed and built by Poelzig on the ruins of a WWI fort where thousands of soldiers are entombed, is an architectural marvel, even by today's standards. All glass and steel, the house consists of sharp angles that cast long, expressionistic shadows, which gives the film its extremely creepy atmosphere.

Werdegast (Lugosi) meets the Allisons on a train and later shares a cab with them. As they drive through a storm, he explains that he is going to visit an old friend after having spent 15 years as a prisoner of war. Not far from his friend's house the cab crashes, killing the driver and injuring Mrs. Allison. They carry her to Werdegast's friend's house. The friend, of course, is Poelzig (Karloff) and it soon becomes obvious that the term "friend" is applied very loosely. In fact, the men have become enemies due to the fact that Poelzig betrayed Werdegast during the war, which led to his long imprisonment. In the basement, Poelzig reunites Werdegast with his wife, now dead and whom Poelzig had married himself while Werdegast was in prison. The freaky architect has been keeping her preserved in some sort of suspended animation type thing. When Werdegast demands to know his daughter's whereabouts, Poelzig tells him that she, too, has died.

What follows is a bizarre tale of two men who are opposite sides of the coin. They engage in a chess match (literally and figuratively) with the soul of the injured Mrs. Allison up for grabs. THE BLACK CAT is incredibly creepy and has some real suspenseful moments. It also has some very disturbing scenes, especially for a film made in 1934. The scene of Karloff reciting the black mass in Latin is especially ominous. One cannot, however, help noticing some gaping holes in the plot. Dr. Werdegast is supposed to be Hungary's leading doctors, and yet he has just been released from 15 years of imprisonment. Huh? Also, there is a cruel scene where Lugosi's character kills a black cat (he has a phobia) and nobody seems to think anything about it...even though it appears to have been a pet in the household. These minor points do not take away from the overall viewing experience, though. THE BLACK CAT still looks great after all these years and it still has the ability to make you shudder.


44 of 46 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 159 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Latin | Hungarian

Release Date:

7 May 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Vanishing Body See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$95,745 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed