Musings in the Dark: Horror 102: Old Horror


Horror 102: Old Horror

A/N: I’ve been unavailable for the past couple of days and so I’ve gotten behind in my posting.  But I will catch up by doing two-fers for the next couple of days.  Halloween will be here soon!!

I went back and forth with this one for a long time.  My top choices were Tod Browning’s Freaks (1930) and Elmer G. Unger’s The Black Cat (1934).  While I love Freaks, especially the ending, I went with The Black Cat because in the end, it had Boris Karloff playing a Satan-worshipping villain and I am here for anything and everything Boris Karloff.  

The Black Cat also starred Bela Legosi as Dr. Vitus Werdegast, a former POW who is riding a train on the way to visit an old “friend” named Hjalmar Poelzig, played by Boris Karloff.  Werdegast has lost everything, including his wife and child.  He is traveling with a couple named Joan and Peter Allison.  When the train crashes in a mountain rainstorm, Joan is injured and the trio find themselves obtaining shelter in the fortress-like home on top of the mountain, owned by famed architect Poelzig. 

Here we learn that Poelzig and Werdegast are actually old enemies and Werdegast blames Poelzig for the death of his wife Karen and their daughter.  Turns out that Poelzig married Werdegast’s wife before the war was over, then murdered her and kept her corpse perfectly maintained in a glass coffin in his basement, which he shows to Werdegast.  Then, to add insult to injury, Werdegast learns that Poelzig then married his daughter, also named Karen.  We see Poelzig sleeping beside the much, much younger Karen early on in the film, not knowing who she truly is.  

Poelzig is preparing for a human sacrifice and Joan Allison is his sacrificial lamb.  Werdegast is able to save Joan from that fate and seeks revenge on Poelzig for murdering his wife and child, as Poelzig killed the second Karen earlier when she disobeyed him.  He manages to secure Poelzig to an embalming rack and skins the man alive, almost with glee.  Joan and Peter are able to escape Poelzig’s house no worse for wear.  Werdegast and Poelzig die when Werdegast blows up Poelzig’s fortress.

I watched this movie back to back twice and then once more the next day before sending the DVD back to Netflix (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and streaming wasn’t a thing).  Hjalmar Poelzig is an evil, evil man and Mr. Karloff played him extremely well.  Mr. Lugosi’s role as heartbroken (and slightly but justifiably nutty) Werdegast was also well done.  If you are a fan of old horror movies, definitely give this one a look.

1 comment:

Thanks for commenting. Please be sure to leave a name; I like to know who I am talking to.