Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cats: Two Adaptations By Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci (Arrow Video, NR)

BlackCats 75I think my favorite moment in the whole film is the title card—right when the main theme kicks, and a black cat walks across the rooftops. It’s sublime.




BlackCats 500

For over a decade now I’ve been collecting movies, and along the way I’ve picked up many little annoyances. Chief among them is my absolute loathing for a DVD or Blu-ray where the menu spoils the film. For example, on the Dawn of the Dead disc the fate of the titular character is proudly put on display in some dynamic sequence before you can access the main menu. Even the cover of the recently re-released Day of the Dead pisses me off, and if I were to share that movie with a friend I’d make them swear to close their eyes before I grabbed it off the shelf. I don’t know why distributors think that designing menus with the assumption that you’ve seen it before is smart. Even if I have seen it before, I don’t like being reminded of the last chunk of the film before I sit down to watch it again.

So with all this in mind, I am very pleased to tell you that as a distributor, Arrow Video has never let me down in this regard. They are a distribution company after my own heart, and are consistently reverent in their approaches to restoring and rereleasing films. I’m pleased that Black Cats is no exception to this, and perhaps the best example. Black Cats is a set that contains two different interpretations of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Black Cat”; Sergio Martino’s Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and Lucio Fulci’s Black Cat. These are two giallo films from masters of the genre. However, it should be noted that I have only been granted a preview of Fulci’s Black Cat, and cannot speak to Arrow’s treatment of Your Vice Is a Locked Room. That being said, I greatly welcome the rerelease of Locked Room, as before this release the film was way out of print and it has always had a good reputation amongst giallo horror fans. Edwige Fenech has the main role. It also features a cat named Satan and a dirt bike racing scene; what more could you want?

Fulci is probably best known for his unofficial Dawn of the Dead sequel Zombie 2, and his Gates of Hell trilogy (City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery). Given Fulci’s reputation of being ‘the godfather of gore’, Black Cat is a lesser-known effort of his. It’s pretty light on the violence, and more in the detective/suspense vein of giallo films. The plot leaves much to be desired, which doesn’t help fans of the godfather quell their bloodlust. There are a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to interesting ideas that never get followed up on, and motivations for characters aren’t exactly clear.

Luckily there are some memorable performances from the two main actors in the film, Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange), and Mimsy Farmer (Four Flies on Grey Velvet) that make every scene interesting even when it probably shouldn’t be. If you’re a David Warbeck fan this is a must-watch, as it’s almost ridiculous how cool his character is in this film. And although her time is brief in Black Cat, cult-icon Dagmar Lassander (The House by the Cemetery, The Laughing Woman) has the scariest moment in the whole film.

This is one of the 11 films that cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Fulci did together, so of course the cinematography is top notch. It pulls all the tricks the two are known for, and in that way Black Cat is sure to satisfy a fan of Fulci’s signature filmmaking style. I especially enjoy all the low-angle shots from the cat’s point of view. Best of all is a lovely score turned out by the masterful Pino Donaggio. I think my favorite moment in the whole film is the title card—right when the main theme kicks, and a black cat walks across the rooftops. It’s sublime.

The Black Cat disc has a couple of noteworthy special features, best of which is Stephen Thrower’s 30-minute assessment of the film. If you’re not familiar, Thrower is perhaps the academic on Italian horror cinema, and author of a couple books on horror films including Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci. His feature left me wanting more. I sort of got my wish, as he does a brief tour of the locations for Black Cat. There’s a very interesting retrospective interview with Dagmar Lassander, which deals a bit with Fulci but only briefly touches on Black Cat. I wasn’t satisfied by the David Warbeck interview, even though it’s an hour in length. It wasn’t so much the content of the interview, but the quality. You couldn’t see his face for most the interview, and the audio was very poor.

The commentary track features the Toronto-based editor for Fangoria magazine, Chris Alexander. To be frank, I really, really, really don’t like him. He uses words like “orgy-astic” and calls Mimsy Farmer a “limp handshake.” He admits that this opinion is mostly rooted in the fact that she’s not a sensual enough presence for him…whatever that means. He takes back his comments about Farmer at the very end of the film, but that’s because the plot is finally picking up so it’s easier to appreciate her at that point. He spends more time talking about himself, and who he’s met (no one in this film) than anything about Black Cat. If that’s not bad enough, he seems eager for the film to end, as he reminds the viewer on a few occasions about how many minutes are left in the runtime. Despite the commentary being a huge disappointment, the set’s features are a pass overall. I can easily see myself watching Thrower’s feature on multiple occasions. | Cait Lore

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