Edgar G. Ulmer’s trash-noir Detour (1945) has a cult following. The film relates a fatalistic story of a guy so dumb he blames fate for the consequences of his own foolishness. Anne Savage, as the street-wise dame who incredulously falls for the sap, is memorable.
Earlier in 1934 Ulmer directed The Black Cat starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Loosely based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the movie is a camp masterpiece. Set in the wonderfully gothic modernist house of a sinister architect, it is a mad expressionist tale of abduction, revenge, sexual obsession, camp horror, and unbridled eroticism. Sex is the primary motif and there is a sense of unreality with the action moving with the strange fractured incoherence of a dream. In a sense Ulmer prefigures the oneiric and sexual motifs of the classic noir period. A must-see.
This trailer I have created focuses on the pervasive eroticism… see the shapely legs of the comely heroine get the Von Sternberg treatment!
The clip has been blocked by NBC Universal on copyright grounds.
8 thoughts on “The Black Cat (1934): Erotic nightmare”
What a very interesting and very concise review…with the added feature…the trailer. Which compliment your review very nicely…By the way; I have never watched Ulmer’s 1934 film The Black Cat” Therefore, I must seek it out to watch sometime this week…perhaps(?!?)
Tony said, “This trailer I have created focuses on the pervasive eroticism… see the shapely legs of the comely heroine get the Von Sternberg treatment!
Oh! Yes, I remember that you pointed the Von Sternberg treatment out in the 1952 film “Macao” starring actress Jane Russell and actor Robert Mitchum.
“Wow,…The Black Cat”
Thanks, for sharing…as usual.
Thanks for the recommendation. This looks chilling… must see it!
– Ivan (a new subscriber)
Thanks DeeDee and Ivan. Great that I have piqued your interest!
You certainly did eroticize this Tony! I have always loved that line that Karloff delivers when he intones “He has an all-consuming fear of cats.” THE BLACK CAT, with its art-deco backgrounds and hokey melodramatic trappings has always been my favorite Ulmer, and I was riveted to the images and dialogue you featured here in your very special homage. BTW, I just love the name of Karloff’s character in the film –Hjalmar Poelzig!
Hey Sam, yes I love how Karloff rolls his eyes wide on “cats” and turns pointedly to Lugosi. Those names are great! And Dr. Vitus Werdegast for Legosi 🙂
I hope to be watching the 1934 film The Black Cat very soon…considered the fact, that I just ordered the Bela Lugosi, box set over the weekend.
Once again, Thanks for pointing it out to me and your readers too!
Tony, excellent summary. The Black Cat is wonderfully atmospheric and one of Ulmer’s best films. I have had this on VHS for years and glad to see it is getting a well-deserved DVD release.
Thanks John. The quality of the DVD print (for a 75yo movie) is amazing! Getting the clip onto YouTube reduces image quality significantly.