Note: This review contains spoilers!!
Released by: Arrow Video
Release Date: Feb. 10th, 1984 (Theatrical)
Apr. 5th, 2016 (Blu-ray)
Region Code: REGION FREE
Run Time: 1h 32m
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Video: 1080p (2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)
THE FEATURES: [3.5 out of 4]
Poe into Fulci: Spirit of Perverseness (25m 37s, HD)
Film Historian Stephen Thrower sits down to talk about Fulci’s version of the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. He speaks with much affection towards the film, even when he talks about some of the stranger elements of the film (ie Patrick Magee’s character’s talking to the dead that never comes up after it is introduced, as well as how the cat was able to steal a key from a locked room and then relock the door). He points out some of the homages in the film, like the bed levitating (taken from The Exorcist) and also talks about the scenes that the producers forced on Fulci (the same bed scene).
Thrower does bring up something that really isn’t talked about much anymore and that is the release of ‘scope’ films (shot in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio) onto VHS in the 80s and 90s in the Pan and Scan format. He talks about how Fulci uses the ‘scope’ frame and fills it to the brim without leaving much room for anything else. When these films were released on VHS, the picture was zoomed into until the black bars wouldn’t be seen any more on a 4x3 (or ‘fullscreen’) TV. When the film was viewed at home, it wouldn’t make too much sense because all you would see is the nose when it came to a close-up.
This is a great look at the film and a nice history lesson for those who are too young to remember what a fullscreen VHS lookd like.
In the Paw-Prints of the Black Cat (8m 28s, HD)
Stephen Thrower is once again our host, this time taking us to the small town in England where the film was shot. He shows us what things look like now as oppose to what they looked like back in 1980 when the film was shot.
I am not usually a big fan of these tours, but there is something about the town that I liked. I guess it could be that we don’t have small towns that look like this one here in the states. I don’t know. It could have been worse.
Frightened Dagmar (20m 12s, HD)
This is a career-spanning interview with actress Dagmar Lassander and it is pretty good. She talks about her start in films before moving on to, what she thinks is her best film, ‘Femina Ridens’, a film that I had never heard of until now. When she talks about The Black Cat she does so with a warm remembrance except when talking about the ‘Fire Scene’ which almost killed her. She speaks of Fulci very warmly but admits that he was probably a bit of a sadistic. We also learn that she didn’t know that the film was a cult hit until she went to Horror Hound Weekend in Indianapolis.
Ms. Lassander comes across as someone you could have lunch with and learn something. I liked this interview. (German with English Subtitles)
At Home With David Warbeck (1h 10m, SD)
Here we have an interview that was conducted in 1987 (I think) and it is rather long and kind of boring. Warbeck goes on and on about films that I have either never heard of or don’t care about. He comes across as a person who has a nice exterior, but is a bit of a devil inside. When he gets to The Black Cat he talks at lengths about how he didn’t like Mimsy Farmer.
The video quality here is poor as this was taped on a camcorder and then forgotten about until Arrow found it and put it on this blu-ray. The sound is ok, but there were times when I couldn’t understand most of what Warbeck said. This is a ‘fans only’ special feature and would probably never watch this again.
Theatrical Trailer (3m 1s, HD)
This trailer gives away too much, but it does capture some of the atmosphere from the film.
Audio Commentary with Chris Alexander
I came into this commentary with high hopes. I find that writers can give some of the best commentary tracks. Alexander was the editor-in-chief when he recorded this commentary, but even he wasn’t sure that he would have the position for much longer. (spoiler: he didn’t) He knows his stuff about the film, but admits that he is not a scholar or aims to be. He is a fan of the film, but offers us no insight to what is happening onscreen, nor does he give us anything about the film in terms of history or even about the story it is based on.
I was really disappointed with this commentary. Sometimes Alexander would come off as a guy who know what he was talking about, but most of the time he would narrate what was onscreen as well as offer his opinion on the film. I liked hearing his opinion, but then he would say that he is not a scholar. Frankly, I was bored by this track.
THE PACKAGING: [N/A]
Normally I would talk about the packaging here (hence the name), but I was sent a ‘check disc’ by Arrow Video and, thus can not talk about the packaging. There are plenty of videos on the web where you can find out what this thing looks like. The ‘check disc’ itself is the real deal, this is the disc going to retailers, just not with the packaging nor the booklet.
THE FILM: [3 out of 4]
I am not that familiar with Fulci’s work (I have been watching the different ‘giallos’ from Argento and have seen Zombie by Fulci) so I was sure what to expect from the film except for a lot of gore. I was disappointed with the lack of gore, but I found the film to be pretty good.
Fulci is a director who is in control of his camera and his actors and does not have to resort to ‘shaky cam’. His actors move where he tells them to move and then his camera does the same. His approach to a film is very much like Hitchcock and De Palma. He gets the idea across in beautifully composed shots that tell us a lot about what is going on.
Fulci uses close-ups a lot in this film. During every death scene, there are a few close-ups of the victims and he even has one scene where two people are talking through a hole in a fence and all we see are their eyes.
The plot is pretty simple: A Scotland Yard detective (David Warbeck) is called out to a small town to help in the investigation of the murder of a couple. There is no sign of forced entry, in fact they are locked inside the room, so the detective starts to think that maybe the suspect is not human.
Fulci brings a lot of atmosphere to the film. The town is covered with a thick layer of fog every night, which gives the town a claustrophobic feel. This, combined with the close-ups, which also gives us a sense of claustrophobia, makes this a film where anything can happen, even a murderous cat.
The deaths are staged in much the way a slasher film would stage them. There is a little build up, with the person or persons doing normal things. Then we get a shot of the cat showing up and BAM, the person is taken out by the cat. The deaths are not gory, but they are a bit unsettling due to the editing and sound mix used.
I have been looking around and reading about this film and a lot of people say that the cat is a terrible killer because the victims should have been able to shoo it away or just grab it and kill it. I say this to those individuals: Have you ever tried to grab a cat that doesn’t want to be grabbed. They will do whatever they can to get away from you. Now, add that to a murderous cat and you have a semi-plausible killer. It is kind of strange to have a cat killing people in the ways it does here, but there are plenty of ‘killer animal’ films out there.
OVERALL: [3 out of 4]
I liked The Black Cat. It is a well made horror film that doesn’t always go where you think it will go and has a director that can lend the film some credibility. This is a perfect film for people who don’t like a lot of gore, but would like to see what Italy has (or had) to offer.
Arrow has given us a nice package. The interviews with the film historian and the actress are nice, but I don’t see myself sitting through any of the other features again. The picture is nice looking (and in its correct aspect ratio) and we are given the option to watch the film in English or Italian. This is not Arrow’s best work in terms of special features, but they have given us a nice film to look at and have fun.