Sunday, January 22, 2012

Boris Karloff, meet Bela Lugosi

TCM is showing a couple of early 1930s horror films tonight. Perhaps the most interesting of them is The Black Cat, airing at 9:15 PM.

The movie starts off with Bela Lugosi on a train in Hungary, which is where he meets American couple David Manners and Julie Bishop (the latter credited under the name Jacqueline Wells). They're on their honeymoon, touring central Europe. However, their honeymoon takes a turn for the worse when the car they're in crashes, injuring the young wife. The husband and Lugosi take her to the mansion of an old acquaintance of Lugosi's (that acquaintance played by Boris Karloff), which is where the action of the film really begins.

We quickly learn that Karloff and Lugosi are more than just acquaintances. When Lugosi had last met Karloff 15 years earlier, he had had a wife and daughter. They were both left behind at Karloff's estate, and Karloff claims they both died of illness. Lugosi, on the other hand, believes that they were murdered, that Karloff is a Satan worshipper who believes in human sacrifice, and that the young wife is the next person who is going to be sacrificed!

To be honest, The Black Cat doesn't particularly cover much more ground than a lot of the other horror films of the early 1930s. They're all interesting in their own rights as time machines, and the plots, being horror-based and not really having to deal with reality, don't date too badly. The thing that makes The Black Cat so interesting is the set design. Karloff's mansion is a masterpiece of art deco design, even though there probably wouldn't have been art deco at the time Lugosi's character was first at the mansion with his wife and kid 15 years earlier. Karloff must have had Martha Stewart in to remodel.

No comments: