The Black Cat (1981) reviews and overview

 
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The Black Cat is a 1981 Italian horror film – released as Black Cat (Gatto Nero) in Italy – directed by Lucio Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling, Zombie Flesh Eaters, The New York Ripper) from a screenplay co-written by Biagio Proietti (Alien 2: On Earth; I racconti fantastici di Edgar Allan Poe, 1979 TV series).

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The film is based loosely on the story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe and Lucio Fulci’s usual violent style is markedly less gory than his undead movies.

The movie stars Patrick Magee (Dementia 13; The FiendDemons of the Mind), Mimsy Farmer, David Warbeck (The Beyond) and Al Cliver (Zombie Flesh Eaters). The role of professor Myles was initially offered to Peter Cushing (who went a far as to make annotations to the script he was sent) but he declined and then Donald Pleasence, who was unable to accept due to filming commitments.

Sergio Salvati provided the cinematography and Pino Donaggio (Tourist Trap; Dressed to Kill) composed the score.

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Plot:

A Scotland Yard detective (Warbeck) and a nosy American photographer (Farmer) investigate a series of bizarre deaths in a small English village. The deaths are connected to a local literacy professor (Magee) who has the psychic ability to talk to dead spirits and somehow uses his gift to direct the entities to his pet black cat. The cat becomes his instrument for revenge against those who have wronged him…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“There is also a nasty bit of immolation, a moldering nude corpse, and a drunk doing a swan dive onto some construction spikes. It may not pay off in a rational or reasonable manner (and the last minute bow to Poe’s original tale is a stretch at best), but we sure do enjoy the ride along the way.” DVD Verdict

“There are some of Fulci’s trademark gore sequences – a drunk driven by the cat to fall onto spikes, two teenagers bodies gnawed by rats – but they seem half-hearted and lack anything that remains in the imagination like the intestine vomiting or the harrowing pickaxe attack on the person in the coffin in City of the Living Dead, or the eyeball-impaling in Zombie Flesh Eaters.” Moria

” … the “is the cat good or bad” question is marginally entertaining. It also boasts some fun chemistry between David Warbeck and Mimsy Farmer, who gets roped into the movie’s plot because she’s apparently the only photographer in town, only for her photography skills to barely be utilized at any point after. And Patrick Magee is a hoot as the bad guy… ” Horror Movie a Day

The Black Cat is immensely enjoyable, beautifully filmed by Sergio Salvati and supported by a wonderful Pino Donaggio score. Although it can’t compete with The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery for sheer violence, it does boast some credible shock moments and an endearingly lopsided set of British characters, reminiscent of Jorge Grau’s classic The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue.” Stephen Thrower, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci

“The Black Cat is one of Fulci’s most unappreciated films. Despite its narrative obscurity, it has style to burn, offers up some nicely staged sequences of suspense and manages to capture something of the obsessive nature of Poe’s writing. Fans would be well advised to revisit it if they haven’t done so already.” Troy Howarth, Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films

Buy Splintered VisionsAmazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

“Arrow’s Blu-ray presentation is glorious – a huge improvement on the previous Shameless DVD release which was itself a revelation to those of us who had only previously seen The Black Cat in its pan-and-scan VTC VHS tape incarnation which was all close-ups of people’s noses and scenes where you had absolutely no idea what was going on.” House of Mortal Cinema

“The film benefits from an excellent performance from Patrick Magee – his last film role – as the deranged professor. The movie is more atmospheric than gory (Fulci’s trademark) and makes great use of its English locale. The best bit is when Patrick Magee goes to strangle the cat…” What Culture

Releases:

On April 4, 2016, Arrow Video released The Black Cat on Blu-ray in the UK.

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk

  • 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
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Buy from Amazon.com

On October 12, 2015, Arrow Video release Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat: Two Adaptations by Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci on Blu-ray in the UK.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • Brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
  • Brand new interview with director Sergio Martino
  • Dolls of Flesh and Blood: The Gialli of Sergio Martino a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring Sergio Martino’s unique contributions to the Giallo genre
  • Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror – The Films of Lucio Fulci, on The Black Cat
  • Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
  • Limited Edition 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films, Poe’s original story and more, illustrated with archive stills and posters

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Buy DVD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

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Main cast and characters:

  • Patrick Magee … Professor Robert Miles
  • Mimsy Farmer … Jill Trevers
  • David Warbeck … Inspector Gorley
  • Al Cliver … Sergeant Wilson
  • Dagmar Lassander … Lillian Grayson
  • Bruno Corazzari … Ferguson
  • Geoffrey Copleston … Inspector Flynn
  • Daniela Doria … Maureen Grayson

Trivia:

Adrian J Smith: In 1994, at a dinner party at David Warbeck’s flat in Hampstead, I asked Lucio Fulci about his most awkward shooting experience and he said it was directing the moggy with a mind of his own in The Black Cat.

Watch the trailer on YouTube

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