The Black Cat (1934)

The Black Cat



Critic Consensus: Making the most of its Karloff-Lugosi star pairing and loads of creepy atmosphere, The Black Cat is an early classic in the Universal monster movie library.

Movie Info

The first cinematic teaming of horror greats Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi is a bizarre, haunting, and relentlessly eerie film that was surprisingly morbid and perverse for its time. Peter (David Manners) and Joan Allison (Julie Bishop) are honeymooning in Budapest when they meet mysterious scientist Dr. Vitus Verdegast (Lugosi) aboard a train. When the trio's bus from the train station gets into an accident, the young couple accompanies Verdegast to the castle of the spectral Hjalmar Poelzig … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Action & Adventure, Horror
Directed By:
Written By: Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Allan Poe IV, Edgar G. Ulmer, Peter Ruric
On DVD: Sep 10, 1992



as Hjalmar Poelzig

as Dr. Vitus Verdegast

as Joan Allison

as Peter Allison

as Joan Allison

as Cult organist (uncre...

as Majordomo

as Sergeant

as Lieutenant

as Car Steward

as Train Conductor

as Train Steward

as Thamal

as Bus Driver

as Patrolman

as Stationmaster
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Black Cat

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (5)

A dismal hocus-pocus which seems to confuse its actors as much as it fails to frighten its audience.

Full Review… | October 19, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Story is confused and confusing, and while with the aid of heavily-shadowed lighting and mausoleum-like architecture, a certain eeriness has been achieved, it's all a poor imitation of things seen before.

Full Review… | September 26, 2007
Top Critic

Ulmer never again had the budgetary resources granted him by Universal (at the time, Karloff and Lugosi were two of the studio's biggest stars), and he makes the most of them.

Full Review… | September 26, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

More foolish than horrible. The story and dialogue pile the agony on too thick to give the audience a reasonable scare.

Full Review… | August 8, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Sumptuously subversive... one of the very best horror movies Universal ever made.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

This bizarre, utterly irrational masterpiece, lasting little more than an hour, has images that bury themselves in the mind.

Full Review… | October 14, 2014
Observer [UK]

Audience Reviews for The Black Cat


"The Black Cat" was the first film to pair the legendary stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and at just 65 minutes in length, it packs quite a bit of oddness into it's short running time. A young couple (David Manners and Julie Bishop) are honeymooning in Hungary (of all places). Traveling by train, they share a compartment with Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi), a psychiatrist on his way to visit an old friend. This old friend, Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff) is an architect who has built a futuristic mansion on top of an old battlefield/graveyard. Poelzig betrayed Dr. Werdegast during WWI, and Werdegast spent several years in a prison there (he was betrayed possibly so Poelzig could steal his wife away), and now returning, Werdegast swears revenge. Throw some satanism into the works and there you have it. Karloff's Hjalmar Poelzig is quite a unique and sinister character, and Lugosi's doctor, with his bizarre cat phobia (whenever he sees a cat, he must either try to murder it or throw his hands over his eyes in terror) is equally odd. While the credits might acknowledge Edgar Allen Poe's original story, there is little here to resemble it. What we have is a strange and well, unique contribution to the horror genre of the 1930s.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

A very interesting old horror movie with two of the best old horror movie stars. A really cool movie.

AJ Verser

Super Reviewer


A young couple find themselves caught between the machinations of a doctor bent on revenge (Bela Lugosi) and a mad engineer (Boris Karloff) in the latter's Art Deco mansion, built on the graves of the soldiers he sold out in a World War I battle. The story's a little ragged (with a black cat popping up at random moments to terrify Lugosi), but Edward G. Ulmer's direction, the geometric sets, and the atmosphere of elegant perversity inexorably draw you in to the Expressionist nightmare.

Greg S

Super Reviewer

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