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Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Black Cat (1941)

Henrietta Winslow is a crazy cat lady if there ever was one.  She even has a crematorium for her deceased cats whose ashes she places in urns that cover the walls of her kitty mausoleum.  It’s actually hard to know who’s crazier in this film: The old lady or her two domestic servants: Abigail the stern housekeeper and Eduardo the crusty gardener.

The story begins with Henrietta’s relatives who are circling her like vultures, hoping they will inherit her riches when she dies.  The plot thickens when the old lady is murdered and her greedy family learn they will not inherit a penny until Abigail and all the cats are deceased.  This is the set up for everything that follows!  Director Albert S. Rogell knows how to make the most of this classic murder mystery.  He gets wonderful performances from his actors and is able to keep things interesting throughout the film.  The script tries to balance “old dark house” suspense elements with comedic moments and success more than it missed the mark.  I’m certain 1940’s audiences would have loved this family-friendly thriller.

The cast is great through and through.  It includes the likes of legendary actor Basil Rathbone [Son of Frankenstein, The Comedy of Terrors], the always radiant Anne Gwynne [Flash Gordon, House of Frankenstein], Alan Ladd and Bela Lugosi [Dracula, Son of Frankenstein].  Lugosi has a fun bit part as Eduardo but it leaves you wanting a more expanded role for the character.  The comedic elements are delivered by Hugh Herbert and Broderick Crawford who get the job done with the best of them.

The copy of The Black Cat I own is part of the Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive.  It’s a wonderful 2 disc collection of some of Universal’s lesser known horror/thrillers with remastered picture and sound.  The picture is crystal clear with only a few white riots here and there.  The sounds is very nice as well.  If you like Universal Horror, this collection is a must-have and is very affordable.

So, if you like murder/mysteries, definitely give this one a try.  It’s not epic filmmaking but it is a wonderfully done movie that is fun to watch from start to finish.

P.S.  DO NOT confuse this film with the 1934 classic of the same title that also stars Bela Lugosi, along with Boris Karloff.  It’s easily the stronger of the two films and should be seen by everyone.

RATING: Very Good

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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