Some Americans travelling in Europe are forced to spend the night with some locals. This results in them being drugged, assaulted and kidnapped for the benefit of an elite club. The movie ends with someone being skinned alive for our viewing pleasure.
Yes, that’s right gentle reader – more than 80 years before ‘Hostel’ appeared, ‘The Black Cat’ was titillating and horrifying audiences with what can only be described as Torture Porn. So it turns that Eli Roth may not be responsible for the decay of western civilisation’s morals after all – who would have thunk it?
The Black Cat is a horrifying, terrificaly twisted little Poe tale where we’re treated to Karloff and Lugosi squaring off against each other, without monster make-up for a change(although Karloff does appear to have been a bit heavy handed with the mascara brush).
Lugosi brings real depth to a complex character bent on revenge, struggling to maintain his sanity, but also fundamentally a good man. Karloff’s character, on the other had, is a complete bastard.
The scene where they play chess for the right of the innocent heroine, as her newly-wed hubby watches blissfully unaware, is loaded with tension. The dynamite hidden under the foundations of the house is loaded with tension too…
We then proceed to some devil-worshipping shenanigans, where Karloff gets all diabolical on an altar in front of a crowd of ardent followers (where did they come from?)...
At the risk of spoiling the ending, I'll just say that the hero and heroine manage to escape certain doom and are last seen on a train, speeding to safety (another similarity with 'Hostel', of course). And in case you hadn't guessed, the reference to loads of dynamite being buried under the house has an impact. Horror Rule #465: All great Horror movies end with an exploding or burning house.