Discover the film that brought together two of horror’s greatest stars

Central to Edgar G Ulmer’s The Dusky Cat is a condominium constructed over an ancient graveyard. It is a classic gothic predicament-up, but the dwelling, removed from conforming to the usual stones, firebrands and cobwebs of Universal Photographs’ castle horror, is a cutting-edge work modernist edifice, personalized-designed by its proprietor, the smartly-known Austrian engineer and architect Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff, billed simply as KARLOFF).

For it’s all panels and glass, steel and electrical lighting fixtures, minimalism and curves, later described by one visitor as “a ample, cosy, unpretentious insane asylum”. If the dwelling’s bellow, discontinuance to the shrimp metropolis of Videgrád in Hungary, comes with a lengthy, gathered history of death, Poelzig himself has contributed to it. For over a decade and a half ago, in direction of the stop of World Conflict One, he had betrayed the place, which used to be then below his militia represent, to the Russians, thus guaranteeing that the quantity of locals buried there used to be elevated by tens of thousands.

One of Poelzig’s surviving victims, the psychiatrist Dr Vitus Werdegast (Béla Lugosi), has spent the last 15 years in a Siberian penal complex camp, and is now returning to hunt for his lengthy-lost wife and daughter, and possibly some revenge too. On his way by educate to Poelzig’s dwelling, he shares a compartment with newlyweds Peter and Joan Alison (David Manners, Julie Bishop), an American couple honeymooning in Hungary.

Peter is a shrimp bit wary of Werdegast – possibly it’s the way in which he catches the doctor secretly stroking Joan’s hair whereas she sleeps, and then telling of his lengthy stint in prison – but however the three bound collectively, along with Werdegast’s manservant Thamal (Harry Cording), within the the same shrimp bus, and when there is an wretched accident in a rainstorm, they all stop up at Poelzig’s pad. As Werdegast and his “ragged friend” Poelzig personal in a battle of wits to resolve some ragged scores, the Alisons secure themselves trapped on the sidelines, with their very lives at stake.

The Dusky Cat used to be the principal of six Universal motion photos to relate collectively two of the manufacturing dwelling’s most iconic horror actors: Karloff, who done the Monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein, and Lugosi, who had the title characteristic in Tod Browning’s Dracula. Right here’s a clash of the vogue’s heavyweights – as monumental in its possess way as Godzilla vs King Kong. And when Poelzig suggests to Werdegast that they’re love “the dwelling stupid”, the outline just isn’t with out a fine refined kind of self-consciousness, inevitably evoking both actors’ most smartly-known roles as, respectively, undead vampire and resurrected corpse.

Certainly, Ulmer’s film is plump of self-conscious nods and winks to the audience. “Of what spend are these melodramatic gestures?” Poelzig will ask, nearly defining (and questioning) the very mode of the film in which he’s showing. And later, after a bellow that offers a heady, not entirely coherent mix of ailurophobia, mummification, uxoricide, Satanic adore, human sacrifice, a are dwelling skinning and an early instance of clueless comedy police officers (Henry Armetta, Albert Conti), the creator Peter, who is a thriller novelist, reads out a newspaper review of his most modern potboiler which also serves, reflexively, as a critique of The Dusky Cat itself:

“Mr Alison has, in a vogue, overstepped the limits within the topic of credibility. These items could seemingly seemingly well by no methodology by the furthest stretch of the imagination if truth be told happen. We could seemingly seemingly well wish that Mr Alison would confine himself to the imaginable as an different of letting his melodramatic imagination bustle away with him.”

The screenwriter Peter Ruric, better identified by the pseudonym Paul Cain below which he wrote novels, used to be himself, love the character within the film who shares his forename, an creator of pulp fiction – and these traces knowingly pre-empt criticism of the unbelievable yarn in his possess script.

The title of The Dusky Cat is taken from an 1843 short story by Edgar Allen Poe, but love the opposite two Poe ‘adaptations’ in which Lugosi would smartly-known person for Universal (Murders within the Rue Morgue, 1932; The Raven, 1935), and indeed love the later film also known as The Dusky Cat in which he would appear in 1941, Ulmer’s film has simplest the flimsiest connection to its source area cloth. Werdegast could seemingly seemingly well piece with Poe’s protagonist a pathological apprehension of cats (even supposing he isn’t any alcoholic), and Poelzig could seemingly seemingly well wait on his stupid wife within the basement (even supposing perversely preserved in a mask cupboard alongside other stupid females, pretty than buried within the relieve of bricks).

But in another case, Ruric has taken Poe’s stupid text as his same outdated foundation, and constructed upon it “a in point of fact not easy dwelling” that incorporates all his possess wild conceits. Admire the potpourri of arbitrary, entirely innocuous Latin phrases (“with a grain of salt”, “to err is human”, “take into account to preserve a transparent head in not easy instances”) that the po-confronted Poelzig stitches collectively, Frankenstein-love, in his solemn rites to summon Lucifer, The Dusky Cat is a wittily self-ironising affair, mixing and matching its incongruous aspects to plot one thing completely Poe-stmodern.

The Dusky Cat is readily available within the Blu-ray predicament Three Edgar Allan Poe Diversifications Starring Bela Lugosi, as half of Eureka!’s The Masters of Cinema Assortment, from 12 April.

Published 5 Apr 2021

Tags: Bela Lugosi Boris Karloff Edgar Allen Poe Edgar G Ulmer The Dusky Cat Universal Monster

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