The Black Cat (1934)

I watched the 1934 the Universal Pictures psychological horror movie “The Black Cat” on Svengoolie. It stars two of the greatest in horror, Béla Lugosi as Dr. Vitus Werdegast and Boris Karloff as Hjalmar Poelzig. This was the first of this pairing with seven more movies to come. Black Cat was the number one movie for Universal in 1934. They hyped the move as an Edgar Allan Poe story but actually had little, more like nothing, to do with the famous writer. The name on the posters and other promotion certainly helped the movies appeal.

Black Cat was produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. (son of the Universal founder and head of production at the studio from 1928 to 1936, King of Jazz, All Quiet on the Western Front, Dracula, Frankenstein, Murders at the Rue Morgue, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Great Expectations, Bride of Frankenstein) and directed by Edgar G. Ulmer (Bluebeard, Detour, The Man from Planet X, The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, The Amazing Transparent Man).

Honeymooners, Peter and Joan Allison meet Dr. Vitus Werdegast on the Orient Express and then share a ride with him on a bus which crashes in bad weather. They walk to the nearest house , which was Werdegast’s destination, the eccentric home of Austrian architect Hjalmar Poelzig. The doctor takes care of Joan’s injuries but that is where the story takes the real turn. It seems that Vitus believes that Hjalmar stole his wife Karen and confronts him.

A masterpiece of construction, built upon the ruins of the masterpiece of destruction.

Dr. Vitus Werdegast (The Black Cat) talking about architect’s Hjalmar Poelzig home built over the battlefields where thousands of Austro-Hungarian soldiers died.

Oh yeah, it seems that Vitus is scared of cats, especially the adorable solid black one in this film. Peter Allison is played by David Manners (John Harker in Dracula, Frank Whemple in The Mummy),

Joan Allison is played by Julie Bishop -billed as Jacqueline Wells (Alice in Wonderland, Tarzan the Fearless, Sans of Iwo Jima), Egon Brecher (Werewolf of London, Mark of the Vampire), Harry Cording (Captain Blood, Daniel Boone, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man),

Lucille Lund (won a nationwide contest, “The Most Beautiful College Coed” which got her a Universal contract as a prize), Henry Armetta (What! No Beer?, Everybody Sing, The Big Store, Anchors Aweigh, appeared in 24 films in 1934 alone),

Albert Conti (was an Austrian-Hungarian-born Italian-American film actor) and John Carradine – uncredited as the organist (The Hurricane, Stagecoach, Five Came Back, The Grapes of Wrath, Hitler’s Madman, The Mummy’s Ghost, Captain Kidd, House of Dracula). George Caryl Sims, better known by his pen names Paul Cain and Peter Ruric, wrote the screenplay (an American pulp fiction author). When the movie was released in the United Kingdom it was called “House of Doom”.

The film – and by extension, the character of Hjalmar Poelzig – draws inspiration from the life of occultist Aleister Crowley (ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer. He founded the religion of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted

with guiding humanity into the Æon of Horus in the early 20th century. I liked the movie and will give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. For more information read Wikipedia, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

Leave a Reply