The Black Cat (1934) Review


It’s time for a big team up between the big horror actors of the old days, Karloff and Lugosi. Although in the actual movie they are going up against each other with two travelers being caught in the crossfire. Suffice it to say, we’re in for another old school horror film where the main characters are terrible and the villains spend more time bantering than actually doing anything. We’re definitely at the right film.

So the film starts off with Peter and Joan taking a train for their honeymoon. It’s all going well until a mysterious man shows up and asks if he can share the room. Peter already gives off some red flags since he isn’t intelligent enough to refuse. Once the couple appears to be asleep this man, Vitus, attempts to get a little too comfortable with Joan. Peter wakes up and glares at Vitus but doesn’t do anything reasonable like kicking this guy out of the car or even becoming big time enemies. Instead he decides to forgive and forget. One thing leads to another and the couple follows Vitus to the mansion of Hjalmar. The old man is a big time enemy of Vitus since he stole the guy’s daughter and murdered his wife. Vitus has come here to get revenge while Hjalmar wants to take Joan since she is the reincarnation of the late wife and he aims to use her vessel as a way to bring her back. It’s all pretty twisted and clearly we are watching two villains go at it. It’s hard to pick any one of them to root for.

This film is fairly dark and not in a natural atmospheric way, but in an artificial gritty sense. Characters are tortured both on screen and off screen. Vitus’ family certainly gets the short end of the stick since they are all murdered by Hjalmar. The ending is even someone getting skinned alive. You can tell that while this is an older film, it’s not one of the classier ones. It’s going for the shock value scenes and it takes away from everything else.

Alas, it wouldn’t be a terrible horror film without an animal showing up in some capacity right? Well, Vitus is afraid of cats so the other villain always uses this against him. Vitus will destroy the cat but it just comes back for more since it has 9 lives. As a result, not only is the scene terrible but it’s pointless. The cat phobia never actually does much and at the end of the day it’s just a random excuse for the film to bump off a cat. Pretty disgraceful if you ask me.

I suppose the writing is decent although you will have to stretch your disbelief to its absolute limit. The whole point of Vitus coming over is to murder Hjalmar and he has dozens of opportunities to do so. In fact, his subordinate is an inside agent working for Hjalmar. He is Hjalmar’s only minion so the two of them can beat the old guy easily. Instead Vitus is constantly content to simply watch things play out and just go with the flow. There’s no narrative reason for Vitus to totally disregard his actual mission for 90% of the film.

As for Hjalmar, he is just as bad. He already murdered the first two people he was with so now he wants Joan even though it’ll probably just be to murder her at some point. Considering that he never poisoned them or anything the same question about waiting rears its head. Why not just destroy them right away or in the dead of night? It’s his house and the main characters are gullible enough to actually go to sleep at night. They’d be easy pickings.

We also can’t forget to talk about Paul and how terrible he is. He gets knocked out several times and never puts much of an effort. The only time he is finally able to air up the nerve to do something he manages to shoot the guy who was trying to help Joan. Clearly he isn’t good at reading body language but I can’t honestly say that I was too broken up about the whole thing since Vitus is basically still a villain in my book. Paul just comes off as really incompetent. Even after seeing how shady everyone is he decides to leave Joan by herself while he sleeps in a room way down the hall. He was just accepting this until Vitus came over to switch rooms. What this means is Vitus would have been in the room next to Joan and since the connector isn’t locked he could have gone to her room whenever he liked. Did I mention that Paul was terrible yet? You get the idea of why this guy was so bad. He doesn’t even understand a threat when it’s being blatantly said right in front of him.

Unfortunately Joan is no better. Not only is she fainting too much, but she gets possessed rather easily. I can’t blame her for falling off the rails after this since Paul lets the villains inject her with something while she asleep. Joan just never seems like a real character during this adventure. She ends up being in a state of shock throughout the movie instead and lets everyone else make decisions for her.

While the premise of someone going to get revenge may sound good on paper it’s clear that the execution is just off from start to finish. Subtle banter between the villains is a decent concept even if they are really trying to destroy each other. At the same time, it just gets unrealistic if it goes on for too long. We could have also been given a motivation for why these two are to be locked in combat without going full tragedy. Considering that Vitus basically knows for a fact that the other guy is guilty you’d think he would make a move of some sort before he is put in a bad position. You just end up questioning the characters quite a bit here. The highlight would be the Chess game. I definitely wasn’t expecting such high stakes for a mere board game, but if that had to be the case then Chess is naturally the perfect pick.

Overall, This definitely isn’t a good film and the other Black Cat films I’ve seen seem to have had more quality. The actual Black Cat in this film certainly doesn’t get the respect he deserves. What really buries this film in the long run is the fact that it is too dark at times and there is nobody to root for. The main characters certainly aren’t very smart and make all of the wrong choices while even the villains don’t seem to think things through. The polite banter that I like from these films only hurts it in this case since these characters should be doing something as opposed to doing nothing.

Overall 1/10

Son of Frankenstein Review


After that last Frankenstein film it seemed that things were looking up for the series. Well, they head back down with this film although it is still significantly better than the first film. It’s problem is just that the plot ends up going nowhere and a large portion of the film is spent with boring dialogue and annoying main characters. The writing is good since this is an old film, but the lines just feel pointless at times with no actual plot progression to speak of.

It’s been a while since Frankenstein was taken down for good and now his son has returned to the land to claim his inheritance. I don’t think the timeline was very well thought out though since he meets up with a one armed police chief who was in the first film, but it’s apparently been at least 20-30 years so he shouldn’t be the same age. Also, he claims that his arm was ripped out as a child by the monster, but that can’t be true. So many questions and so few answers. Anyway, Baron wants to revive Frankenstein to prove that his father was correct in creating him, but is this smart?

First off, Baron is an extremely annoying character and having him as the lead can grow quite tiresome. I don’t see how he could possibly want to bring Frankenstein back or how he can really think it is a good idea. I think just about anyone can realize that this is not the smartest move you can make. Everyone in town already despises him and the guy does have a wife and a kid to look after. Putting them all in danger just for the sake of his reputation is quite bad. It also made for a very awkward carriage ride with his wife as he went on a long rant about how his father was right while she just looked confused and nervous. It’s probably a good time to start talking about how the house should be good rather than this. Baron just seems very on edge and shifty for the entire film and was definitely not likable in the slightest. I’d rather just have the normal Frankenstein back.

We’ve got Ygor as the main villain, but I don’t think I can take him seriously. He’s not exactly a character who screams “Main Villain” and he’s never been all that serious before so why start now? Furthermore, Baron should have taken him over to the cops right away after the guy tried to murder him. Not doing so was a rather large error in judgment and one that the Baron would continue to pay for over and over again. The Monster also returns for a rather large role of course, but he just seems like a shell of himself here. It definitely does feel like this film had a completely new staff since he seems to be based more on his legends than on the actual character from the previous two films. He’s back to being his usual unlikable self. While he does have some self control at times, it’s hardly enough to make him interesting in the slightest.

As for Krogh, he was solid. At least he actually gave Baron a chance unlike all of the others who wrote him off just because he was related to Frankenstein. It was certainly not the warmest welcome that the town gave the guy. At first, Krogh appeared to be antagonistic as he kept beating around the bush and talking about his past, but I suppose that was all misdirect or the writers weren’t sure what was happening at the time. It was definitely a tough ordeal for Krogh, but he stayed strong and was nice to have around. The townspeople were interesting as well as they seemed a little more petty than usual. They threw fruits at the main characters and just tried to act as mean as possible the whole time. I don’t think Baron cared as much as he implied though since he was too busy trying to become a mad scientist.

The film’s biggest mistake is certainly the fact that it’s very boring. Now, it’s interesting because you’d think that a horror film that’s mostly slice of life shouldn’t be all that boring right? After all, Nisekoi is a series about a guy trying to remember his days as a kid so he can remember a promise and involves a lot of happy days at school and it is never boring. By all accounts, Frankenstein stories should be more interesting right? I’d say that the issue is you expect Frankenstein to be a little more about horror and less about characters just talking around. If anything, getting rid of the Frankenstein angle could elevate the rest of the film since you’d be going into it with a Andy Griffith kind of expectation. By trying to attempt both genres, Son of Frankenstein ended up succeeding in neither of them.

What’s a real shame here is that the film’s setting had promise. The inside of the mansion that Baron inherited had a pretty interesting architecture and I wouldn’t have minded exploring it a little. The kid wasn’t overly annoying, but luckily he didn’t appear much so that was a good thing. Baron would have been a more compelling character if he either hadn’t believed in the monster or wanted nothing to do with it anyway. Then we could have had Frankenstein appear to avenge himself and they would have had some fights and mind games. It all wasn’t to be though and the film somehow manages to lose all of this potential to the winds. What could have helped was also a plot that made more sense because as I mentioned earlier, it just feels like plot holes are everywhere.

Overall, Son of Frankenstein is a pretty weak third film. It’s not nearly as bad as the first film so that’s a start at least. How I see it, the first film was just bad and super violent. The second film was interesting and had a decent mix of comedy and horror. The third film didn’t have much of a focus and became boring as a result. They all failed and succeeded in different ways so at least you can’t say that the series doesn’t try to experiment a little. If you’re a big fan of Frankenstein then you should probably check this film out just to add it to your collection. Otherwise, I’d advise you to just check out the Bride of Frankenstein instead and to leave this one to the history books. After all, it’s not as if you’ll miss much right?

Overall 3/10