The Black Cat
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Running time: 65 minutes
A masterpiece of horror from director Edgar G. Ulmer, The Black Cat was the first of eight movies featuring the infamous pair of actors Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Surprisingly morbid and perverse for its time, it nonetheless became Universal Picture's biggest success of the year with its utterly macabre tale of post-World War I anguish. Newlyweds Peter and Joan Alison are on a train to Budapest for their honeymoon where they encounter Dr Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) a Hungarian psychiatrist, who has spent the past 15 years in a prison camp. Werdergast is on his way to visit his old friend, the Austrian architect and Satanic cult leader Hjalmar Poelzig, a terrifying man who was responsible for the death of scores of his fellow countrymen during the war. (Poelzig's character was inspired, in part, by the occultist, counter-cultural figure Aleister Crowley.) The trio find themselves in Poelzig's mountain top mansion, built upon the ruins of Fort Marmorous, a truly treacherous and frightening place with dead women on display in glass cases and the requisite black cat. One of the first movies with an almost continuous musical score the film's expressionistic style, is reminiscent of Murnau's Nosferatu and Lang's Metropolis, both of which the director worked on prior to making the film. Featuring scenes of necrophilia, human sacrifice and torture, it exploits the popularity of Edgar Allen Poe and the horror genre at the time (although it has little to do with Poe's short story of the same name) as well as the growing popular interest in psychiatry. Well received on its release, it has become a horror classic, described by the film critic Philip French as a “bizarre, utterly irrational masterpiece”.
Reservation is not necessary, but places are limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.