There have been a lot movies based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Black Cat and although Poe is credited for his story, this classic 1934 pre-code Universal horror only used the title for inspiration. The story is an original one about a young American couple caught in a battle between a Satanist and a vengeful doctor.
Bela Lugosi plays one of his very few good guy roles. He’s a doctor who was just recently released from a prisoner of war camp. He went to war 18 years ago and spent the last 15 in the camp. Lugosi had left a wife and daughter back in Hungary and is just now returning home to see them. He meets a young American couple on a train and after a accident on a bus where the wife is injured, Lugosi helps the husband take the wife to the nearby fortress like home of Boris Karloff. Karloff is a Satanist and an architect. He built his home on the ruins of the fort that he was in charge during the war. Lugosi believes that Karloff has done something terrible to Lugosi’s family and now has to protect the American couple from Karloff’s evil ways.
The plot is far from straightforward. The only reason the movie is called The Black Cat seems to be because Karloff has a black cat and Lugosi is terrified of them. This is a very dark and disturbing movie. Directed with style by Edgar G. Ulmer – the movie was Universal’s highest grossing film in 1934 and is Lugosi and Karloff’s first on screen pairing.