Tonight on MeTV- it's an eerie Universal offering that has Bela Lugosi facing off against Boris Karloff in a complicated story of post-war pain, lost love, and even devil worship- with an innocent young couple caught as victims- in 1934's “The Black Cat”!
I should mention- this is NOT the Basil Rathbone/Broderick Crawford horror comedy from 1941 we have shown before, which also included Bela in a more minor role. This one has a far more sinister edge...and no comedy.
We board a train with a happy young couple, Peter and Joan, heading out on their honeymoon to visit Hungary. They are put in the awkward position of having to share their train compartment with a stranger- psychiatrist Dr. Vitus Werdegast- who is finally returning home after 15 horrible years in a Siberian prison camp. He had left his wife to go to war- and, sadly, has never seen her again. He is on his way to see an old “friend”, Hjalmar Poelzig, an eccentric architect with whom he claims he has to settle "some old business". Poelzig lives in an old fortress, still standing amidst the rubble left after the war. By an awful coincidence, that becomes the destination for all the compartment passengers, who, after leaving the train, end up involved in a bus crash, injuring the young bride- and making the stop at Poelzig's necessary for emergency medical attention.
In the odd Expressionistic interior of the former fort, Werdegast treats the newlywed woman, in whom Poelzig shows an unhealthy and disturbing interest. The psychiatrist Vitus, supposedly due to his fear of animals, is unnerved by a black cat roaming the house, and takes action against it- but discovers there is so much more to fear in these confines! Undaunted, Werdegast gets down to his "business"-confronting Poelzig about his betrayal during the war, causing the loss of many lives- and, even more personal - accusing him of stealing his wife while he was imprisoned!
We get a look at a bizarre "collection" Poelzig maintains- as well as his young female “companion” who has a sickening connection to the whole situation. We soon learn that Poelzig has sinister plans for the recovering young bride- and that the forthcoming dark of the moon is the time planned for satanic rituals – with part of the plan being that certain visitors will never leave the premises!
The look of this film is fascinating, especially the interior sets. Boris Karloff, as Poelzig, appears to have a “New Wave” look crossed with “Lost in Space”s Dr. Smith! But-no comedic cries for help or false bravado here-Karloff brilliantly plays a man - who is indeed a monster; and Bela, as Werdegast, gives a moving performance, showing passion, heart-break and fury. The ending has shock after shock- going in a direction or two that it might not have been able to go, after the Motion Picture Code governing content was established. And, like the other “Black Cat” film- any connection to Edgar Allan Poe is strictly in name only!
We'll go over the cast, and give some notes on the production, present a commercial for a product suitable for use in any home with a black cat, and add a bonus chunk of Sven segments to round out our airtime!
"The Black Cat" prowls onto MeTV at 8 pm eastern/pacific, 7 central, and, if unsure where and when to find us in your area, check your local listings or at www.metv.com . Once again last week, we were found among the most commented-on topics nationally on Twitter- and you can join the thousands of fans who live-Tweet along during the show- just make sure to use the hashtag #svengoolie. This morning, Chicago area viewers can get wrapped up in the encore of Hammer’s "The Mummy" on our main local station, CW26, at 11 am.
We are just one week away from me emerging from social distancing at home to make the first post-pandemic public appearance of the year! Next Saturday, I’ll be at the Flashback Weekend horror convention at the beautiful Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel in Rosemont, IL. Look for info under the “appearances” tab here on our website. Certain precautions will be in effect for your safety and mine.
We are restocking the Sven baseball caps, which have been selling briskly- make sure to check them out in our store!
Meanwhile, stop by MeTV tonight- for horror's two titans and one terrifying tabby ( well, terrifying to Bela, anyway...)