The Black Cat (1981)

08/27/2015 22:02

Film: The Black Cat

Year: 1981

Director: Lucio Fulci

Writer: Lucio Fulci and Biagio Proietti

Starring: Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer and David Warbeck



This film is one that I hadn’t heard of until working my way through the horror movie encyclopedia that I am. I was interested when I saw that this was co-written and directed by Lucio Fulci. Now I’ll admit, the only time I had seen this, I wasn’t as versed with who he was. I’ve seen quite a few of his movies now. I’m now giving this a second viewing as part of October horror movie challenges I’m participating in. The synopsis is a professor with psychic abilities is able to communicate with the dead. His pet attacks different people around their village that he has a past with.

We begin with a man getting into his car. There is an interesting camera angle from the point of view of a cat. While he is driving down the road, he hears a noise and notices a black cat in the vehicle with him. He stares into its eyes and he looks to be hypnotized. He crashes the car into a parked car. This sends him through the windshield to his death.

The movie then shifts over to a photographer, Jill Trevers (Mimsy Farmer). She is taking pictures of some ruins in town when she sees a hole in the ground and goes into it. There are spider webs and skeletons all around. For how old things are, she finds a little microphone. She takes it. As she goes to exit, she meets with Sgt. Wilson (Geoffrey Copleston), who is an police officer. He tells her not to go down there as it is not safe, also bringing up superstition.

The film then introduces us to a professor who is quite strange of Robert Miles (Patrick Magee). We learn that he is psychic and speaks with the dead with the use of different audio recording equipment. He is attacked by a black cat which we will learn belongs to him.

We then shift to a young couple in a boat. They are kissing, but get interrupted by another group. They decide to go somewhere else with more privacy. He directs them to a boat house with a room in it. They go in and he states it is air tight and no one will be able to interrupt them again. He locks the door and puts the key on a table. The light gets knocked out and the key disappears. Something also ruins the air conditioner and there doesn’t seem to be any ventilation.

The young woman’s mother is Lillian Grayson (Dagmar Lassander). She wakes up in the night and goes to check on her. When she’s not there, she goes into a panic and contacts the police. Around this time an inspector from Scotland Yard, Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck) comes to the area. There have been strange deaths so he is there to get to the bottom of it. They don’t stop and Inspector Gorley meets with Jill to help him as a photographer of these crime scenes. Jill also intertwines with Prof. Miles, who shares his belief that the cat is to blame. Is this the case or is there another explanation to all of these strange deaths?

Where I want to start my analysis is that I’m glad I gave this another viewing. I was quite harsh and didn’t fully understand the nightmare logic that was Italian cinema. I wouldn’t also be surprised if I saw this being based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story and it not necessarily following that to a tee. Regardless, I appreciate Fulci more and Italian cinema in general.

The story is where I’ll delve into first. This movie follows the Poe story more than I realized this time around. It isn’t one that I’m as familiar with as from what I remember; the black cat is haunting/torturing the main character. We get a bit of that here. From the beginning Prof. Miles is attacked by it. I’m thinking there is a more logical reason there. The deaths in this movie can be seen as accidents. There are weird things that make the police question it, but we see that stuff all the time. The two teens getting trapped isn’t weird except the key is found outside of the room. There is a guy falling to his death, a car accident and house fire. These have logical explanations and none is that a cat killed them. This works for me.

What I find interesting this time around is that we are mixing elements of a few sub-genres. Prof. Miles is a psychic so it is supernatural. This cat is hung by him, but still comes back to attack others. Jill believes the cat is being controlled by someone to kill. There is also the aspect of giallo here, without being one. Inspector Gorley includes Jill in the investigation since she is the most accomplished photographer in the area. When he is out of commission, she is still helping as well. There is also an aspect where Inspector Gorley is ‘macho’ and she flirts back with him. There is a mystery here that doesn’t necessarily work as the reveal isn’t too crazy. It is more that a pattern is found for the victims to lead back to the explanation.

Since I don’t want to go into spoilers, I think the acting is where I’ll go. Magee is solid as this crazy professor. I know him originally from A Clockwork Orange. He never seems to be stable in anything I watch and he has a look that fits that. Farmer is solid as our female protagonist. How she gets involved is logical. My only issue is falling for this rude inspector. Warbeck is good as Gorley though. He has the look and how he carries himself works. Cliver is one of my favorite supporting characters. Aside from that, I’d say that Lassander, Daniela Doria and the rest of the cast were solid in support for what was needed

The last things I’ll go into would be the effects, cinematography and soundtrack. For the former, this is fairly tame for a Fulci movie. That’s not to say that we don’t get some vicious attacks, especially simulating it as this cat. The blood looks good to me. I also think the cinematography there helps. The point of view angle from the cat that we get a few times is great. How this is shot is well done overall. The theme song and the rest of the soundtrack are on point, but when I saw Pino Donaggio’s name I knew it would be solid.

So then in conclusion here, this movie is better than I remembered it. I believe having seen quite a bit more and my tastes changing have helped. Do I think this is an amazing movie now? No, but Fulci can be an acquired taste. There is an interesting take on this Poe story by combining the supernatural with a mystery and a bit of giallo in there. The acting is solid. The effects we get are good and the soundtrack helps the scenes for what is needed. I’d say that now I’ve come up to this being an above average movie to me. I’d recommend it if you are a fan of the things I’ve relayed here for sure. It is worth at least a viewing.


My Rating: 7 out of 10