In the credits of "The Black Cat", it claims that the film is suggested by the Edgar Allan Poe story. That was just a ploy to get people to see the picture. The film is actually an original story that has nothing to do with Poe. In fact, it has nothing to do with a black cat either. There just happens to be a black cat that shows up in a couple of scenes. Lugosi has a fear of cats and kills one of them. That's pretty much it.
Karloff and Lugosi are excellent in their first screen pairing. It truly is Frankenstein vs. Dracula. Lugosi plays the hero part and he is seeking revenge on Karloff. In World War I, Karloff was responsible for the killing of 10,000 men and the torture of Lugosi for 15 long years. To top that, Karloff has kidnapped Lugosi's wife and daughter.
Karloff is an architect and he keeps dead bodies on display in glass cases. This is just a hint to what he really is. He is a devil worshipping priest and he has plans to sacrifice a young girl who Lugosi is trying to keep safe. Lugosi finally gets his revenge on Karloff at the end of the film by chaining him up and skinning him alive. It was very frightening.
I was never a huge fan of "The Black Cat" probably because there are no monsters in it. It was too adult for me when I was a kid. Watching it now, I realize it may be the most original Universal horror film. It is way ahead of its time. It is a wonder how this film was not censored for its violence. I don't think I have seen another film from that era that involves the skinning of a man.
The sets and photography are some of the best produced by Universal in the 1930s. Karloff's house is designed in a much more modern way than things were built in the 1930s. It was very unique and original. The cinematography was excellent as well in "The Black Cat". There are several POV shots that work really well. Instead of showing Karloff and Lugosi walking through the mansion, we get their POV and their voice overs. It was also a very unique way to really show us these amazing sets. During the sacrificial ceremony, there are several shots that I just loved. There were extreme close ups of the worshipping members that were just plain eerie.
Karloff and Lugosi are perfect in the film and it is nice to see Lugosi in the "good guy" role. You really feel for Lugosi. Karloff has done everything to ruin this man's life. You can't wait to Lugosi to get his revenge! "The Black Cat" might not be as memorable as "Frankenstein" or "Dracula", but it truly is one of Universal's best.
A- I recommend it.