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Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 Main

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3 - The Black Cat Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 Large

Directed by Albert S. Rogell
Written by Robert Lees, Fred Rinaldo, Eric Taylor and Robert Neville (story by Edgar Allan Poe)
1941, 70 minutes, Not Rated

Basil Rathbone as Montague Hartley
Hugh Herbert as Mr. Penny
Broderick Crawford as Gil Smith
Bela Lugosi as Eduardo Vigos
Anne Gwynne as Elaine Winslow

Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 05 Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 06


The Winslow family impatiently waits for their aging matriarch, Henrietta, to die so they can get their hands on her vast fortune. She summons them all to the drawing room and reads from her will how her monies are to be dispersed. Arriving late to the gathering are realtors Gil Smith and his associate Mr. Penny, who are intent on selling the house. Later in the evening, someone in the group, wanting to fast-track the proceedings, murders Henrietta. The others search the house and its many secret passageways for clues, but before the night is over there will be more than one dead body.

The Black Cat is a typical Old Dark House story filled with mystery and murder. Dim corridors and long shadows lend a sufficient level of creepiness to the proceedings, but at its heart the film is more of a classic whodunit. Director Albert S. Rogell (The Hell Cat) does a fine job with the overly-familiar material that claims to be inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story, but the similarities begin and end with the title. To be fair, there are black cats in both tales, but you won’t find any other connection here.

Basil Rathbone (The Mad Doctor) heads the ensemble cast as Montague Hartley, one of many greedy relatives with motive and opportunity to whack old granny. Rathbone brings a charm to the character and is good in the part, never overplaying the possibility that he may be a murderer. Anne Gwynne (House of Frankenstein) co-stars as Henrietta’s granddaughter, Elaine Winslow, the one decent family member in a pack of jackals. She is kind and considerate and able to take care of herself in a pinch. Broderick Crawford (All the King’s Men) is the outsider Gil Smith, looking to sell the house before Elaine catches his eye. There is a hefty dose of comedy crammed into the plot courtesy of Hugh Herbert (Sh! The Octopus) as the clueless appraiser, Mr. Penny. Adding marquee value to the picture – and little else – is Bela Lugosi (Return of the Vampire) as Eduardo, the groundskeeper. This is a thankless role that doesn’t do much for his standing as an actor, but it is always nice to see him.

It took four writers to crack this one, but The Black Cat succeeds as a murder mystery with its strong performances and stylish design. The plot is a bit creaky, but Rogell keeps things moving at a steady pace. Despite its flaws, the picture is entertaining and audiences will enjoy trying to guess the culprit.

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