The IMDB page for Edgar Allan Poe is much bigger than one would think. The 19th-century writer's work has never gone out of style when it comes to the movies, it seems, both foreign and domestic - whether it's direct adaptations of his stories or films "inspired by" him and his legend.
|Edgar Allan Poe|
The Black Cat runs a grand total of ten pages in my Poe collection. It's about an alcoholic animal lover dude who takes his frustrations out on his pet cat - an act that comes back to haunt him, Twilight Zone-style. Victorian-era literature in general was very flowery and verbose, but in Poe's hands, it's wedded with a Hitchcockian level of dread and paranoia that even today, over 150 years after his death, still has the power to shock and unsettle:
... And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart - one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow.
|Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in Black Cat '34|
Perhaps the best known version is the one from 1934, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring the Lennon and McCartney of horror, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, in the first of their eight films together. It's absolutely nothing like the original story at all, with characters that don't appear in the book and an entirely different plot that just happens to have in it a black cat - one which doesn't figure that heavily into the story at all. That said, the movie itself, which I watched for this post, isn't bad, though I thought it dragged in places. It doesn't get really good until the final fifteen minutes.
|Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard and|
Broderick Crawford from Black Cat '41
So didn't anybody make a film based on the actual Poe story? Well, yes, someone did: in 1966, a guy named Harold Hoffman adapted and directed a Black Cat film that, based on this trailer, looks like a contemporary, 20th-century version of Poe's tale. Unfortunately, it didn't exactly set the world on fire. Too bad. The Black Cat is a good psychological horror story. Hopefully somebody, someday, will give it the film adaptation it deserves.
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