Here's a movie based on an Edgar Allan Poe story by the same name. The film, however, has very little to do with the Poe story other than the fact that there is a black cat involved. Nonetheless, the film stars horror stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff (which will be a trend for the next couple days).
|Karloff as Poelzig. Lugosi as Werdegast|
The movie starts with a young couple on a train in Eastern Europe. Peter and Joan Alison (played by David Manners and Julie Bishop, respectively), are joined by Dr. Vitus Werdegast (played by Lugosi). On the train, Lugosi explains that he spent 15 years in a prison camp after fighting in the war. He left his wife, who died while he was gone. Lugosi also explains that he is on the way to seeing a friend nearby, Hjalmar Poelzig, an Austrian architect (played by Karloff), though he doesn't say why.
|David Manners and Julie Bishop as the Alisons|
The train crashes and Joan is slightly injured, giving the group no choice but to seek shelter at the house of Poelzig. Shortly after arriving to the house, it is revealed that the house was built on the ruins of Fort Marmorus, a fortress that Poelzig commanded during the war. In a private conversation, Werdegast blames Poelzig for the deaths of thousands of Hungarians and also for stealing Werdegast's wife while her husband was in the prison camp. Throughout this whole ordeal, the Alisons are unsuspectingly in the middle when Poelzig decides, instead of just letting the Alisons leave unharmed, he intends to sacrifice Joan in a satanic ritual.
|They actually play a game of chess to decide Joan's fate. Werdegast loses.|
The next scene shows a large gathering of satanic worshippers arriving at Poelzig's house awaiting the event. Just before Joan is sacrifice, Werdegast prevents this from occurring, getting into a fight with Poelzig. Poelzig ends up shooting Vitus' manservant as well as the doctor himself. Werdegast manages to defeat Poelzig, then ties him up and says, "I am going to skin you alive, bit by bit," which he subsequently does (off camera of course). Having already been shot, Werdegast tells Peter and Joan to escape the house, while he uses a self-destruct switch to destroy the entire fortress.
My favorite thing about this film was the star power of Lugosi and Karloff. This is the first of eight times they would both be featured in the same film and one of the very few times that Lugosi actually performed better than Karloff and actually got the best of him. Although it has almost nothing to do with the Poe story, it's a movie that's well made and for it's length (just 65 minutes long) has a complex story that will keep you watching until the very end.