The Black Cat ‘34 Is the Black Cat Movie You’re Looking For

black-cat-1934

I teased you with the movie version of The Black Cat that you weren’t looking for, the 1941 semi-comedy and barely entertaining one from Universal. But no teasing this time. Universal’s 1934 movie The Black Cat is a stone-cold, brutal classic of early horror cinema—and it features the first and best pairing of legends Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

The first Universal horror cycle had already used Poe for material with a loose adaptation of Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1932, which starred Bela Lugosi as a mad doctor with a killer ape. Director Robert Florey, who was originally slated to helm Frankenstein (along with Lugosi as the monster), gave Murders in the Rue Morgue plenty of expressionist visual flair, but it’s only a tiny scratch compared what Austrian director Edgar G. Ulmer pulls off in The Black Cat.

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This Is Not the Black Cat Movie You’re Looking For

Black-Cat-1941-Crematorium

One of my favorite discoveries in my college library was the volume Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931–1946 by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas. The 1990 book was one of the first to look at the entire canon of Universal’s horror and mystery pictures from their Golden Age and treat them as something more than the “kiddie TV entertainment” they were once relegated to. I grew up watching these movies on weekend afternoons, but until Weaver et. al I knew little about the behind-the-scenes tales of their making.

I must’ve kept the book checked out of the college library for a straight year, constantly renewing it. It gave me a huge uptick in appreciation for classic horror and instilled in me a hunger to dig up the more obscure movies the authors covered. And they covered everything: The Sherlock Holmes movies; the Inner Sanctum mysteries; the supernatural comedy Ghost Catchers; films such as The Secret Key that only count as horror because a star like Boris Karloff appeared in them; historical epics with gruesome content, like Tower of London; plus obscurities The Mad Ghoul, House of Horrors, and the film I’m writing about today.

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