The Black Cat 1934

The Black Cat

Critics 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.

88%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 33

70%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,606

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Movie Info

Stranded Budapest honeymooners follow a mad doctor (Bela Lugosi) to a black-lipped architect's (Boris Karloff) Art Deco manor.

Cast & Crew

Boris Karloff
Hjalmar Poelzig
Bela Lugosi
Dr. Vitus Werdegast
David Manners
Peter Alison
Julie Bishop
Joan Alison
Lucille Lund
Karen Werdegast Poelzig
Egon Brecher
The Majordomo
Henry Armetta
Police Sergeant
Albert Conti
Police Lieutenant
Anna Duncan
Maid (uncredited)
Herman Bing
Car Steward (uncredited)
Heinz Roemheld
Original Music
John J. Mescall
Cinematographer
Ray Curtiss
Film Editor
Charles D. Hall
Art Direction
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News & Interviews for The Black Cat

Critic Reviews for The Black Cat

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (29) | Rotten (4)

  • Wildly expressionistic, the movie has nothing to do with the Poe story from which it takes its title and everything to do with Ulmer's sense of the Nazi menace.

    October 20, 2016 | Full Review…
  • A dismal hocus-pocus which seems to confuse its actors as much as it fails to frighten its audience.

    October 19, 2008 | Full Review…
    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.

    September 26, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    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.

    September 26, 2007 | Full Review…
  • More foolish than horrible. The story and dialogue pile the agony on too thick to give the audience a reasonable scare.

    August 8, 2006 | Full Review…
  • Sumptuously subversive... one of the very best horror movies Universal ever made.

    February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Tony Rayns

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Black Cat

  • May 16, 2012
    "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.
    Devon B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 23, 2011
    Messy script and typically silly finalle. But Karloff's presence is marvellous, terrifying and convincing.
    George M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 03, 2010
    A very interesting old horror movie with two of the best old horror movie stars. A really cool movie.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Aug 18, 2010
    So I decided to watch... well the next movie that came across my desk. I had never heard of this little gem before. This is a big deal movie too. One that you would of heard of right? One that would be deserving of a ride at Universal unlike Earthquake the movie. This is the first blockbuster for Universal Horror since Dracula! I mean you have two major Horror heavyweights. Frankensteins own Boris Karloff and Dracula himself Bela Lugosi, both act incredibly. The movie story is bizarre and loosely biased on a Edgar Allen Poe story. A couple meets a weird Doctor (Bela) on a train. They all get into an auto accident, where I assume the driver is killed, yet no one in the movie ever talks about him again. Then they all stumble conveniently to the Doctors destination. A House owned and built by Boris Karloff's character, a psychotic and satanic Architect. I guess that the Architect stole the Doctors lady during the war and put him in an internment camp. So Bela came to this place with these people to collect. This movie has a ton of versions released all with cuts. I guess that this movie has a pretty decent amount of early gore. There is even a skinning, though I haven't seen it yet. Unfortunately, I had to watch the condensed 59 minuet version. This version sucks, it had no amount of gore. It did however show things that were incredibly shocking for its time. One it showed Boris Karloff in the same bed as a woman, which is like uncalled for in Horror movies up until this point really. The movie also shows a woman being kissed on the neck, pretty passionately. This is a milestone movie, hell it was produced by Universal. A movie this memorable should be an attraction. It does have its flaws though there are problems with continuity, bodies moving, and the whole driver thing. Because of these things, the movie comes out to a 7 on my scale. I recommend this movie to black and white movie fans. It makes its way onto the 1001 movies list. "You Lose Vitus!" S!D
    Brandon S Super Reviewer

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