The Black Cat: Karloff vs Lugosi Celebrity Deathmatch

The next film on the list is The Black Cat, a 1934 horror film starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.  I know what you're thinking.  A scary movie from the 30s that has Lugosi and Karloff in it?  Surely not!  Why, that's as rare a sight as the Loch Ness Monster herself.  But there's a reason these two creepers made eight horror movies together and have clocked in probably 500 solo horror movie appearances.  They're creepy guys.  So creepy, in fact, that The Black Cat earns a position at #969 on our list.

Mr and Mrs Naive Newlywed are in their sleeper cabin on a train through Eastern Europe, when they learn that they have to share it with a sketchball upstanding middle-aged gentleman.  Played by Bela Lugosi.  I have a feeling that this is where the trouble begins.

Of course, after they get off the train, their bus crashes in the middle of nowhere.  Mrs Newlywed is hurt, so Mr Newlywed and Bela the Creepster bring her to Poelzig's house, a friend of Bela's.  Well, frenemy, as it were, because apparently Poelzig is responsible for thousands of Hungarian deaths during the war and is the only person who knows where Bela's wife and daughter are.  Also, Poelzig is played by Boris Karloff, so you know there's something Just Not Right about him.

So apparently, Poelzig has Bela's wife frozen in his basement, and apparently, he really doesn't want to allow Mr and Mrs Newlywed to leave.  Why?  Because he worships SATAN!  And black cats or something.  There was definitely something about black cats in there.  Besides Bela's Woody Allen sized neurosis about cats.

But wait -- now Poelzig wants to use Mrs Newlywed as a sacrifice to SATAN.  And he's got Bela's daughter living with him as his wife.  That's all kinds of wrong.  Bela goes dark side and takes revenge on Poelzig by skinning him alive.  This is all very Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6. Mr and Mrs Newlywed manage to escape, while Bela uses the convenient self destruct function on the castle and blows it sky high.

Random Musings:

  • No no no, innocent young couple!  You never voluntarily allow Bela Lugosi to stay in your train cabin.  Haven't you people ever seen a movie?

  • Dude, if you walk in on Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the middle of an argument, you back the fuck away.  You don't ask for a whiskey.  This isn't a bar, it's a death match.  Be grateful they let you walk away, and you're not a zombie or a vampire or something.

  • "Supernatural, perhaps.  Baloney, perhaps not." Is it bad of me that I'm just incredibly amused by Bela Lugosi saying the word baloney?

  • These two guys just seem to be trying to out creep each other.  I'm not even sure who's winning.  Maybe Karloff?

  • Love Karloff's monologue with Beethoven's 7th in the background.'s a bit cheating, isn't it?  I mean, you could have Keanu Reeves reciting the lyrics to "Friday" and it would come off all deep and poignant if that was playing.

  • No, but to be fair, it's a pretty freaking awesome monologue.  "You say your soul was killed, that you have been dead all these years. And what of me? Did we not both die here in Marmorus 15 years ago? Are we any the less victims of the war than those whose bodies were torn asunder? Are we not both the living dead? And now you come to me, playing at being an avenging angel, childishly thirsting for my blood. We understand each other too well. We know too much of life."

  • Did Lugosi and Karloff legitimately hate each other in real life?  There's this wave of genuine animosity whenever they look at each other.  To be fair, though, I could just be basing it on how much Lugosi (played by Martin Landau) hated Karloff in the movie Ed Wood.

  • Is it wrong that even though I know Boris Karloff's name, in my head I sometimes call him Karkaroff like in Harry Potter?

  • "Someone's taken my automatic!" Well WTF are you doing walking around with a Glock in your suitcase anyway?  This isn't Grand Theft Auto.  Or, you know, Texas.

  • I would lose my shit if they ever cast Boris Karloff in like a romantic comedy.  How awesome would that be?  Missed opportunity, guys!

I quite liked this, actually.  It's not very scary, but it's atmospheric and strangely watchable.  I think it's something to be said as well that this film is only 65 minutes long, so it keeps the story moving at a brisk pace and doesn't overstay its welcome.  I enjoyed seeing Bela Lugosi in a (kind of) good guy role, and he's got a lot of warmth in him that was a bit surprising.  I feel about this movie the way I feel about a lot of horror films from the 30s -- they just have this air about them.  I'm never scared by them, but I'm sort of enthralled.  I rarely find myself losing interest.  It's great to see the two main go-to guys in the horror genre sharing the screen together, Bela and Boris.  That should be a sitcom, really.  I would watch it.  Anyway, no complaints here!

Thanks for reading, and come back next time for Boogie Nights!

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