The black cat. 1941
This is a quick 70 minute gum drop of a movie that pulls out all the old cliches, plot devices and stops for the one about old dark houses on dark rainy nights. It’s played more for comedy than thrills and the first thing one notices is the first rate cast running wild with their tongues firmly placed in their cheeks looking like they were having a fun time. There’s Basil Rathbone, Hugh Hubert (looking like he just stepped off on of those 1930’s Busby Berkeley musicals, Broderick Crawford cast against type playing a romantic lug, Bela Lugosi as the spooky grounds keeper, Gale Sondergaard as the spooky housekeeper (were her breasts lopsided or was that just me?), Gladys Cooper and a young handsome short Alan Ladd a year or so before he hit stardom. As is usual with these old dark houses, the cast play greedy relatives of the kindly but crusty wheel chair bound old lady of the house Henrietta Winslow who when the film opens has had a close call with Mr. Death and has gathered the vultures around her to read them her last will and testament. So much for the plot. There’s the usual creaky floors, hidden rooms, stormy nights, murders and lots of cats that Ms. Winslow likes better than her relatives. The film is enhanced by good cinematography by the great Stanley Cortez who went back and forth between B’s like this one to A’s (The Magnificent Ambersons) and no nonsense direction by Albert S. Rogell who directed 124 films beginning in 1921 including these enticing titles The Mask of Lopez, The Patent Leather Pug, Red Hot Leather, Grinning Guns, Air Hostess Butch Minds The Baby and many others.