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Black Cat, The (Blu-ray)

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Black Cat The s 1980 - Black Cat, The (Blu-ray)

Black Cat The 1980 258x300 - Black Cat, The (Blu-ray)Starring Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, David Warbeck, Dagmar Lassander

Directed by Lucio Fulci

Distributed by Arrow Video


The name Lucio Fulci brings forth images of extreme gore, zombies, and frequent ocular mutilation. The man wasn’t exactly noted for his subtlety. But not every picture of his was a crimson love affair, as evidenced by the relatively low key The Black Cat (1981), loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name. Here, Fulci relies on atmosphere and tension to bring the frights. There is a wealth of style to be found in this picture, but the script isn’t terribly strong which may be one reason why this film isn’t nearly as celebrated as some of Fulci’s other works. What makes The Black Cat worth watching are the Gothic trappings, a strong cast of some notable British character actors, and glimpses of that instantly identifiable Italian splatter FX work.

There are sinister doings afoot, and all appear to be the work of a dastardly black cat. The tiny creature slinks around, causing chaos wherever it goes. First, it causes a car crash that produces a fatality. Then, seemingly for fun, it traps a couple looking for a spot to shag in an airtight room, scurrying away with the key and leaving the two to wither and die. The home of this infernal beast is a ramshackle old place owned by Robert Miles (Patrick Magee), a former professor who is rumored to be able to communicate with the dead. Robert’s hobbies include being a dick to most people he comes across and spending long nights at the cemetery making audio recordings of his conversations with the deceased. An American tourist in town, Jill Travers (Mimsy Farmer), also enjoys traipsing through the graveyard. During one such excursion she finds a small microphone on the floor of a crypt and, rather than discard it, becomes intrigued and decides to look for the owner.

The search leads her to Robert, who fills Jill in on all things paranormal. During her visit to Robert the eponymous cat shows up again, attacking Robert before scampering away. There seems to be a link between the feral beast and the town medium, though the exact nature of their relationship is a mystery. The local police call in Robert to find the missing couple, figuring his medium skills might come in handy. They were alerted by the girl’s mother, Lillian (Dagmar Lassander), that she was missing. He uses his abilities to determine where the two are located, with police finding the bodies while Robert also ascertains the location of the key – outside the locked room. He knows that damn cat is the culprit. The bodies continue to pile up as locals are killed in quick succession by the little monster, though the deaths are conveniently explained away as accidents and not malice.

Robert decides this evil little cat has got to go, so he drugs the little bugger before taking him out back and hanging him in the most adorable little noose. That solves that! Except it doesn’t, and now that cat seems more pissed off than ever. Jill agrees the cat is a problem, but she is also convinced the real killer here is Robert, who has been acting awfully shady as of late. Is the cat a killer? Is someone controlling it to kill? Or is there something even more sinister at play?

Even though The Black Cat is lacking in a tense, tight script it is definitely not devoid of eerie style. I love how Fulci shot the picture to look so dreary, especially the cemetery scenes that look straight out of some classic horror movie. Fog hangs thick in the air and the graveyard looks ancient and foreboding – very iconic. There are few moments of brightness in this film; Fulci keeps the action limited to austere environments and decaying, rustic locales. Robert’s house is practically a character unto itself; a huge stone palace that looks like it should be the setting for a haunted house film, not simply a benign residence. It also doesn’t hurt that Fulci moved from his usual haunts of Italy and New York City to England, where the landscape has a stronger aesthetic of nature meeting old-age architecture.

The difficulty in finding tension here is mostly due to the film’s villain, which is a black cat that weighs roughly ten pounds. Setting aside the fact that almost any of the film’s victims likely could have kicked this thing halfway across the country and run the opposite direction, rather than face a contrived death, the thing just isn’t intimidating in any way. Sure, the cat has some kind of supernatural thing going on that probably makes it extra mean and claw-y but it’s difficult to derive terror from something so… cute. The attack scenes are shot well enough, even though it’s clear there is very precise editing going on to make it appear something exciting is occurring. The only complaint I have about those shots is the obvious cat-paw-on-a-stick that is used to apply blood meant to symbolize claw marks.

The Black Cat isn’t going to be one of my go-to Fulci films, but if I’m in the mood for Italian horror that is dripping with atmosphere then I know where to look. The marriage of Poe to someone with such visceral horror sensibilities as Fulci seems tailor-made. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray presents the film with the best a/v quality it’s ever had (which still leaves a bit to be desired), along with a smattering of excellent bonus features. Horror fans looking to fill in some gaps in their Fulci section would do well to pick up this release, which is likely as good as this film is ever going to get.

Featuring a new 2K scan from the original camera negative, The Black Cat arrives on Blu-ray with a 2.35:1 1080p image. Grain is a bit on the heavy side, though it remains pretty consistent and doesn’t obscure the picture in any way. Definition is reasonable but hardly crisp and super sharp. Colors look accurate despite a lack of overt vibrancy. Daylight scenes tend to look best – no shock there. The print is mostly clean. A line appears down the right side of the screen on a few occasions, and there is some minor dirt present. Black levels are a little hazy but mostly solid.

The audio offerings are expectedly limited, with an uncompressed LPCM 1.0 mono track available in English or Italian. The track is clean, with no obvious issues. Dialogue and effects come through with equal clarity; neither is fighting for audible space despite such a narrow track. Pino Donaggio’s score is one of the film’s major highlights and it sounds excellent in lossless audio. Subtitles are available in English.

Filmmaker & Fangoria editor Chris Alexander delivers the film’s audio commentary. After rattling off his many titles, he delves into a track that feels very personal and less technical than some viewers may want to hear.

“Poe Into Fulci: The Spirit of Perverseness” – “Nightmare U.S.A.” author Stephen Thrower, who pops up on an awful lot of Arrow releases, delivers his usual stream of erudite information, providing a strong context for Fulci and his work during this period.

“In the Paw-Prints of The Black Cat” – Thrower visits the locations from the film, showing how they look today all these years later.

“Frightened Dagmar” – The actress offers up a career retrospective, talking about her various film roles.

“At Home with David Warbeck” – This 1995 interview was conducted at Warbeck’s home. It looks rough, very rough, likely sourced from a third-gen VHS tape.

A theatrical trailer is included in HD.

Special Features:

  • Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in DTS-HD mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker and Fangoria editor Chris Alexander
  • From Poe into Fulci: The Spirit of Perverseness – film historian Stephen Thrower on Fulci’s Poe-tinged classic
  • In the Paw-Prints of The Black Cat – a look at the original Black Cat locations
  • Frightened Dagmar – a brand new career interview with actress Dagmar Lassander
  • At Home with David Warbeck – an archive interview with the Black Cat star
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

  • The Black Cat
  • Special Features
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User Rating 3.5 (14 votes)
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