Archive for The Black Cat


Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on November 1, 2012 by dcairns

Hello, kitty! yes, it’s yet another take on Poe’s THE BLACK CAT, a tale which seems inclined to transmigrate and transmogrify ad infinitum — in this case, it’s part of an anthology film that isn’t really an anthology film, a remake that isn’t quite a remake, and you can read about it in our post-Halloween edition of The Forgotten… if you dare.


Manic Monday

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on March 28, 2011 by dcairns

Dwain Esper’s MANIAC is so inept on every conventional level that it actually achieves an intermittent kind of interest. When a filmmaker has no interest in achieving anything except conning the public out of their money, the results are certain to be poor, but when he’s not good enough to efficiently do even that, you start to get some entertainment oozing back into the thing through the gaping fissures. Add to this that Esper wants to keep more than one ball in the air at once, a wildly unrealistic ambition considering his total ineptitude.

Esper’s balls are ~

1) Straight carny exploitation of sex and violence

2) Mock-medical pseudo-authenticity to lend socially redeeming merits to his film (important for staving off censorship)

3) An atmosphere of the macabre

(3) is sought via story borrowings from Poe’s The Black Cat, and actual film borrowings, seen in these double exposures which mix Esper’s footage of bad actors grimacing, with Guido Brignone’s footage of better bad actors grimacing more effectively in MACISTE IN HELL (1925). I was very glad that I’d seen Brignone’s film first, because otherwise I’d have spent MANIAC wondering what the devil it was and how I could find a copy. The baroque proto-peplum imagery, fusing Dore’s Dante illustrations with the epic rhubarbing of CABIRIA and the shade of Steve Reeves to come, somehow found its way into Esper’s hairy palms and was interpolated willy-nilly into the trash auteur’s ongoing mastur-piece.

Cats in the Brain

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2010 by dcairns

“The latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree.”

Both Lucio Fulci’s THE BLACK CAT and Sergio Martino’s more memorably titled YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY rework Poe’s “immortal classic” in lurid and rambling fashion, only really returning at the end to play the climax “straight”. Which kind of seems a mistake, since the visualisation of a recognised story flattens the delirium they’re otherwise aiming to evoke.

Bonuses include the charm of Fulci enacting his usual vicious brutality, with familiarly over-exposed, fumbling special effects, in a leafy English village — Fulci seems to have liked England, he set several movies there. There’s also the acting — Patrick Magee hams it up for Fulci (theory: by pushing his actors into extreme and contorted styles of playing, Kubrick may have actually ruined them — Nicholson was never quite the same after THE SHINING, and as for Magee…) in an amusingly out-of-control manner, palsied and weirdly enunciated.

The acting in Martino’s film is more traditionally “good”, with Anita Strindberg and Luigi Pistilli genuinely, uncomfortably unappealing in the leads, and some welcome sex appeal shipping in by the reliably underdressed Edwige Fenech. What disappointed me was the lack of swooning beauty and striking images, which are what I go to Italian horror for. I counted two lovely moments, though ~

When a preposterously over-the-top prostitute shows up in town, her near-instantaneous murder is a depressing inevitability. This disturbing little scene is one of the last things she sees. Love the doll.

Gratuitous lesbian love scene — with rather striking dissolve from two silhouettes.

Fulci being the mad doctor he is, his movie has a more consistent visual quality, with low-flying cat POV shots, and the cat himself is full of personality. Plot revolves — or spins, rather — around Magee’s tendency to astrally project his spirit into the cat and use it to do his murderous bidding, a sort of feline MONKEY SHINES avant la lettre.

By chance, in revisiting Freddie Francis and Robert Bloch’s horror compendium TORTURE GARDEN, for the sake of the third episode, in which Peter Cushing keeps a reanimated Poe in his cellar, churning out new tales of Mystery and the Imagination*, I realised that the film’s first episode was very much Poe-derived. Michael Bryant (a sort of Martin Amis type, crisply fervid with ciggie) murders a supposedly wealthy uncle (enabling Francis to repeat some of the persecuted-person-in-a-wheelchair he tried out first for Karel Reisz when he shot NIGHT MUST FALL) — so far, so Tell-Tale Heart. Then he unearths a coffin with a headless skeleton and a very much alive cat. This one isn’t pure black, so it photographs with more personality. As it psychically brainwashes Bryant, he speaks aloud the transmitted thoughts: as he says “you’re hungry,” Francis cuts to the little fellow licking his chops. Francis’s horrors always have a cheeky sense of humour.

* Cushing and Jack Palance are both huge fun (Cushing gets a drunks scene) and Francis blocks their conversations very nicely, and I don’t mind that the set wall visibly wobbles during their fight and I’m more bemused than annoyed that Palance plays a Brit and Cushing a yank, but really, the ending falls apart disastrously. It’s amusing that the great Poe collector has actually collected Poe himself, but the pay-off ought to involve something of the author’s personality, not just some diabolical double-cross. Still, the rest of the film has magnificent stuff from Burgess Meredith (as Dr Diablo) and Michael Ripper (as the personification of ubiquity).

For Anne Billson.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 359 other followers