The Black Cat (Gatto nero) (1981)
Directed by Lucio Fulci.
Written by Lucio Fulci and Biagio Proietti.
Adapted from the 1843 short story The Black Cat, written by Edgar Allan Poe.
From Shameless Screen Entertainment’s ever growing catalogue of horror and the unseen gems from the past, we bring you the tale of The Black Cat by Lucio Fulci. With gothic themes and a ripping story of a malevolent cat, the supernatural and murder, Lucio Fulci’s 1981 film has all the ingredients for the ideal Halloween treat. A tale that may send tingles down your spine and a hankering for what has been missing from modern day horror fare in what should be a classic.
Lucio Fulci is well renowned for his output of gore, gore and more gore with such films as Zombie Flesh Eaters and The New York Ripper but here in this 1981 film The Black Cat, things are more restrained and the movie is better for it. Saying that your gore appetites won’t be fulfilled is wrong though, you’ll still get your fix. Plus being a Fulci film you still get your portion of sex with healthy dollop of suspense and the supernatural as well.
The Black Cat is inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, in which an owner of a black cat, kills his pet and is then tormented by its ghost, leading to murder and recrimination for the owner. Here Fulci takes this tale and brings in a number of new aspects and ups the body count to boot.
Set in an your typical English country village, one where you’d expect Miss Marple to be sitting in the local tea shop or an episode of Midsummer Murders to take place. A number of deaths start to occur amongst the local but small populous. The first occurring in the open frames of the film, where a driver seems to be hypnotized by a strange black cat that happened to be in the back seat of the car, causing him to crash and throw himself through the windscreen.
Then follows more deaths, as young a couple go missing, when they are trapped within an airtight storeroom after a bit of ‘how’s your father’ and a local is found ‘kebabed’ on spicks in a local warehouse.
Meanwhile a young American photographer, Jill Trevers (Mimsy Farmer – Operation Leopard / The Magician), is staying in the village to study the local ruins and architecture of the village and is asked by a Scotland Yard Inspector, Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck – The Beyond / Ark of the Sun God), who has been called in to help by the local force, to take some picture of the crime scenes in an aid to help the investigations.
While this is all going on, the local professor and all villages should have one, Prof. Robert Miles (Patrick Magee – Dr. Jekyll and His Wives / Portrait in Terror), is out and about in the local cemetery recording voices from the graves and listening to types of the dead in his study and all the time being constantly watched by his black cat. Treated as an outcast and a bit of a mad-man be the locals, his resentment for them has built up over time, to the point where he as little or nothing to do with them. However, it seems that Miles and his cat have more to do with the locals then is first thought as his cat is not just present at each death but is the prime suspect.
As the deaths increase and the relationship between the professor and his cat become even more intertwined, the suspense builds with a strong supernatural undercurrent increasing towards the end of the film.
For me this is great little story and using Edgar Allan Poe’s work as a basis for the film gives it a wonderful gothic feel, reminiscent of the old Hammer films of the same period. With Magee giving a great turn as the Professor and some nice spots of character acting here and there from the cast the carries off it goal to produce a hearty slice of supernatural suspense.
However, I do have one quibble to bring up about the film and that was the musical score and some of the sound used within it. Though the score worked well throughout the film, building tension when needed and the like, one major distraction for me was the use of the oboe for the signature tune for the cat. I just made it sound all too comical, made the cat feel like a cartoon character and made me loose an kind of foreboding that had been built up. Also towards the end of the film when the cat starts disappearing and reappearing, the sound effect used just made me think of Mr. Claypole from Rentaghost, which is just not frightening at all.
Though sound and music issues aside this is a great little tale that would suit any Halloween evening in with your pet cat on your lap.