THE BLACK CAT (1989) Reviews of Italian horror – new on Severin Blu-ray

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[Total: 107   Average: 2.6/5]

The Black Cat is a 1989 Italian horror feature film about a new movie production that inadvertently resurrects an ancient witch named Levana.  She tries to take over our world so that evil can be spread everywhere, but the only one in her way is actress Anne, who is to play Levana in the movie. A battle between good and evil begins…

Written and directed by Luigi Cozzi (Paganini Horror; Contamination; StarcrashThe Killer Must Kill Again), the 21st Century Film Corporation-World Picture production stars Florence Guérin (Too Beautiful to Die; Faceless), Urbano Barberini (Opera; Gor; Demons), Caroline Munro (The Haunting of Margam Castle; Slaughter High; Maniac; Dracula A.D. 1972) and Brett Halsey (Demonia; Twice-Told Tales; Return of the Fly). Also known as Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat and Demons 6.

The project originated as Daria Nicolodi‘s proposed third entry in the Three Mothers trilogy following Dario Argento‘s Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980). However, Nicolodi dropped out and Luigi Cozzi revamped the concept, adding his own unique take on the project. Producers 21st Century Film Corporation (headed by former Cannon co-owner Menahem Golan) apparently insisted on adding a connection to Edgar Allan Poe so a brief quote from his poem was inserted after the initial production wrapped.

Blu-ray release:

Severin Films released The Black Cat on Blu-ray and DVD, transferred in 2K from pristine vault elements, for the first time ever on October 27th 2020. Order via Severin Films

Special features:

Cat on the Brain – Interview with director/co-writer Luigi Cozzi and actress Caroline Munro
Trailer

Reviews [click links to read more]:

” …a well-executed horror film that’s always entertaining. Another strength of The Black Cat is its movie within movie premise that revolves around characters’ confronted by an evil entity that does not want them to make a movie about them. Ultimately, The Black Cat is a text-book example of Italian genre cinema’s ability to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” 10K Bullets

” …there’s a lot to love and the colors are nicely popping, like when Anne falls into dream worlds (or vice versa) and the windows glow bright yellows, blues, green, and reds (the whole last 2/3 is really all dream world or rather reality and dream unite and never more asunder be). The end goes all Manitou and there’s even an ‘inner’ child (literally, as in innards erupt) counseling Anne from inside the TV.” Acidemic

“ …this would be self-reflective movie combines gory exploitation with meaningless in-jokes about the Italian schlock industry […] occasional cosmic trips are mixed in a cocktail that cashes in on the reputation of Argento’s far more stylish movies.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Charitably, this movie is a mess, but I completely loved every single minute of it. There’s enough bile and blood and breasts and beasts to satisfy just about any horror movie lover.” B&S About Movies

” …a film about horror films could have resulted in a delicious deconstruction of not only Argento’s body of work but of Italian horror cinema in general. Sadly, this is not the case, as The Black Cat takes a fascinating concept and then proceeds to piss all over it with a terrible script, shoddy direction, ropey acting, awful dubbing and laser beams. Yup, this film has laser beams in it.” Behind the Couch

This should be quite a simple premise but Cozzi packs his script with an array of increasingly weird twists and turns that eventually render the film impossible to follow (especially when time and space themselves start to bend for the climax), albeit oddly entertaining. It’s a kaleidoscope of crazy lighting, splattery gore, multi-coloured lasers, eighties haircuts and Caroline Munro in her lingerie.” Blood Capsules

“This is post-Nightmare on Elm Street, so there’s plenty of nightmares and nightmarish visions. There is also an attempt to delivering a colourful film, but in the end, this isn’t a very visually pleasing movie. The budget is not there for it and Cozzi is just not talented enough to mimic and make sense of Argento‘s style.” Cinema Terror

“Cozzi goes crazy with the saturated color gels of Argento and Mario Bava, but if there’s one director he’s ripped off more, it’s himself! It appears he’s recycled the box of Christmas-ornament spacescapes from Starcrash and/or his Hercules twofer, not to mention Contamination’s alien eggs for Levana’s Oxy 10-ready, pox-a-poppin’ skin. Mind you, these are all welcome elements of cut-rate creativity…” Flick Attack

“Literally nothing makes any sense. Still, even though by this time I had no idea what I was watching, it manages to be somewhat entertaining. The atmosphere is still great and every now and then there’s a little gore. It’s funny that even after all those years director Luigi Cozzi hadn’t forgotten about his exploding stomach effect he used in Contamination (1980), and uses it in this movie as well.” The Gory One Liner

“As giddily unhinged as Cozzi’s Paganini Horror but with even more freaky, nightmarish imagery (such as evil embryos floating in space via willfully bad SPFX and Levana at her most hideous puking her guts out all over a screaming Anne), The Black Cat flaunts its vintage-cheese production values and revels in being just about the nuttiest Argento tribute (with some Fulci thrown into the mix) that you could ever expect to subject your senses to.” HK and Cult Film News

“Ultimately Cozzi’s talents and the budget at his disposal are not enough to meet the demands of this ambitious film. Respected stars such as Urbano Barberini and Brett Halsey help to generate interest, but for the most part, they’re working with inferior material. If viewers do manage to sit through the entire movie, they will be rewarded with another of the infamous science fiction scenes that earned the director the nickname “Cosmic Cozzi…” Jim Harper, Italian Horror: 1979 – 1994

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“This is a film defied my expectations from the get-go, winning me over from the opening moments which are accompanied by a tune from hair-metal band Bang Tango and then throwing me off-kilter with its weird mixture of witchcraft, a movie-within-a-movie premise, and some seriously out-there cosmic elements, this is a real gem of late-80’s Italian cinema.” McBastard’s Mausoleum

“The plot is ridiculous. Of course, this is a Luigi Cozzi film. The man could make a film about paint drying and it would somehow involve shots of space, exploding torsos and Caroline Munro […] I love you, Luigi- but this film is a mess. It’s a glorious mess, but a mess. If you like obscure, crazy cinema, watch this. Most of you will just wonder what the hell is going on.” Mondo Bizarro

“[Cozzi] manages to drench the entire film with stylized lighting meant to evoke its famous predecessors, and though the film isn’t all that gory as a whole, it does deliver in a handful of bloody sequences and even delivers some old school Gothic atmosphere at times complete with a cobweb-enshrouded grave and that old Italian standby, writhing maggots.” Mondo Digital

“Most of the usual tropes are present: an ugly Italian leading lady, a scurvy looking lead guy who might have had a really light beard, late eighties fashions, the amateurish multicolored lighting that is supposed to pass for atmosphere (give it up, just accept the fact that Mario Bava was the only one who could get this right), and of course the gloriously inane heavy metal soundtrack.” Monster Hunter

“Luigi Cozzi’s ambitions of ideas exceeds his skill in delivering them and the results emerge more like a muddled A Nightmare on Elm Street copy. The ending is frankly bizarre – with the film suddenly turning into an epic battle between two mentally super-powered humans a la The Power (1968), followed by several cuts away to intergalactic planetary scapes borrowed from Cozzi’s Hercules films that almost transforms The Black Cat into a science-fiction film.” Moria

“Cozzi bathes much of the film in yellow, green and orange lighting gels, and while this was clearly done to evoke an Argento-esque look and feel to the movie, to the man’s credit, more often than not it works quite well […] The story may not always make sense – it really goes off the rails a few times – but Cozzi paces the picture pretty well, the film is never dull…” Rock! Shock! Pop!

” …it feels as if Cozzi put a mess of movies in a blender, hit the “puree” button, and made a cinematic smoothie. In addition to the Argento homages, we have characters spewing green vomit like The Exorcist, and a scene where guts shoot out of a TV just like in Videodrome. Heck, Cozzi even rips off himself a couple times. There’s a bonkers scene where a woman’s heart explodes out of her chest that looks suspiciously like leftover props from Cozzi’s Contamination…” The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:

“That man is no director, he’s a butcher. All he wants is blood, blood and more blood. And now and then, guts.”

“What am I doing here? What is this place? Just another dream? Another nightmare?”

Cast and characters:

Florence Guérin … Anne Ravenna
Urbano Barberini … Marc Ravenna
Caroline Munro … Nora
Brett Halsey … Leonard Levin
Luisa Maneri … Sara
Karina Huff … Esther Semerani
Alessandra Acciai … Nadine
Giada Cozzi … Sybil
Michele Marsina … Flora
Jasmine Maimone … Laura
Antonio Marsina … Fridge repairman
Maurizio Fardo … Dan Grudzinski (uncredited)
Michele Soavi … Carl – film director (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Rome, Lazio, Italy

Technical details:

89 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1
Audio: Mono

Notes: 

The screenplay references Konstantin Stanislavski, a Russian theatre practitioner who emphasised a technique in acting by which an actor strives to empathise with the character being portrayed so as to effect a realistic interpretation.

Some images: Rock! Shock! Pop!

  

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