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The Black Cat

USA 1941
produced by
Universal
directed by Albert S. Rogell
starring Basil Rathbone, Hugh Herbert, Broderick Crawford, Bela Lugosi, Anne Gwynne, Gladys Cooper, Gale Sondergaard, Cecilia Loftus, Claire Dodd, John Eldredge, Alan Ladd
screenplay by Robert Lees, Robert Neville, Frederic I.Rinaldo, Eric Taylor, loosely based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe, music by Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner

Universal horror cycle, Universal's Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cat

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Henrietta Winslow (Cecilia Loftus) is an old catlady who has been on the verge of dying for years now. But because she's very rich, her relatives' care, first and foremost her slimy son-in-law Montague (Basil Rathbone), who has already invited buyers for her house and her furniture - Gil (Broderick Crawford) and Mr Penny (Hugh Herbert) - to the mansion, even though Henrietta isn't yet dead. Then though Henrietta does die in an alleged accident, and only Gil thinks it was murder. All of her relatives are in for a surprise though, because Henrietta has willed her estate and her cats to her maid Abigail (Gale Sondergaard). After much to and fro, Abigail is killed in what looks like a suicide, but this time Gil can prove otherwise. Later an attempt is made on Montague's wife Myrna (Gladys Cooper), and she blames it on the creepy gardener (Bela Lugosi), who is chased around the premises and then shot by Myrna herself.

Case solved?

Perhaps, but Elaine (Anne Gwynne), the only good girl among Henrietta's relatives, is not so sure, but when she confronts Myrna with her suspicions, she is knocked out and dragged to the estate's crematorium through some secret passageways, where Elaine plans to burn her alive.

Gil, who has long had a soft spot for Elaine, searches for her frantically, but when he meets Myrna in the crematorium, she claims she hasn't seen her. A cat's meow from out of the burner makes her suspicious, but when he notices Myrna has made it to the crematorium on a dry foot when it's pouring outside, he figures she must have intimate knowledge of the place's secret passageways as only a killer could, and in the ensuing struggle they have, Myrna catches fire and burns to death. Gil on the other hand manages to save Elaine, and they become a couple, of course.

 

One of these old dark house flicks that has all the usual components: The eccentric rich lady, her unusual will, the moneygrabbing relatives, an unidentified killer, secret passageways, and of course the comedy relief (Hugh Herbert). All of this could have made for an ok movie, but the film's plot is just way too muddled to ever come to life properly. Plus the humour in the film is too repetitive to add much amusement and interrupts the proceedings a few times too often to really work.

Not a trainwreck of a movie perhaps, but certainly one of the weaker old dark house mysteries of its time.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD