The Black Cat is adapted from the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, although the cat in this film is way underutilized and is incidental rather than taking center stage. I expected the cat to make a grand entrance toward the end of the film but puss was no where to be found. That being said, The Black Cat is a nice little thriller starring Bela Lugosi as Dr Vitus Werdegast and Boris Karloff as Hjalmar Poelzig.
These two are great together in this picture. Lugosi is kind of the good guy in this picture who ends up seeking refuge at Karloff's house along with newlywed couple Joan and Peter Alison. Although Lugosi would play a scientist many times in his career, this is one of his best incarnations in that role. Werdegast is complex, engaging and showcases Lugosi's abilities as an actor. I really enjoyed him in this role.
Karloff, however, is the really stand out of the two. With excellent makeup by Jack Pierce and an equally well designed wardrobe, Karloff is ominous and menacing as Poelzig. He's a lean, mean satanic machine and inhabits the role completely. His castle is also a study in modern Expressionistic architecture with every piece of furniture, wall, window and staircase done to perfection.
The honeymooning couple includes Julie Bishop as Joan and David Manners [Dracula, The Mummy] as Peter. Both are good in their roles and are a nice contrast to the nefarious Karloff and Lugosi.
Surprisingly, IMDB states that this film was banned in Italy, Denmark and Austria, while other countries required cuts of the more gruesome sequences. The cut I saw of it came from Netflix and I didn't see anything in it that seemed out of place for the time period it was made. Perhaps there's another version of it out there somewhere. Let me know if you have the scoop on this one!
The Black Cat is a fine 1930's horror film that may not be as strong as the iconic Dracula and Frankenstein but it's definitely one that should not be missed.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.