JUNE 9, 2012
When I made my daily “HMAD Today is…” tweet for The Black Cat (Italian: Gatto Nero), I described it as a “golden era Fulci” film, being that it was from the same period that produced The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead. Being that it isn’t as popular as those films, I wasn’t expecting it to be as great, but I certainly wanted more than what it delivered, which was a somewhat dull, uninvolving tale of a cat who may or may not be doing the bidding of a creepy asshole as it decimates the supporting cast.
The main issue is that it lacks any real Fulci touches. There’s no real atmosphere; a few shots of the cat wandering around aside, there’s a distinct lack of style to the film, and even his usual eyeball closeups just seem relatively forced and unnecessary. It’s also not very gory at all; there’s a funny head through a car windshield bit early on (I say funny because the chain of events is ridiculous, and the dummy obvious), and an immolation around the halfway point (funny for same reasons), but otherwise they’re pretty tame – the IMDb points out that Anchor Bay’s DVD is uncut, but I can’t imagine what even the most out of touch MPAA member would deem “X-rated” about any of this. Hell, if not for some nudity, I bet this movie could net a PG-13 today if released by a major studio.
It even lets a guy live when by any reasonable measure he would be killed! Dude is wandering in the middle of the road after being attacked by the cat, and he is hit by a car with violent impact. Yet later he’s basically fine; a broken wrist and bandages around his upper chest being the only evidence of his injuries. Come on, this is a Fulci movie! He should have been cut in half by the impact of the car, with his legs being run over as his torso and head flew through the air and landed on some sort of spike or into the gears of heavy machinery. THAT would be a gore sequence!
Plus, the cat just isn’t that exciting to watch. When you have to write in an overlong bat attack scene in your climax, that’s probably a sign that your “villain” isn’t doing enough to keep the movie afloat. Sure, it’s funny to see the chain of events that he causes during these scenes, as well as his preternatural intellect (the cat manages to unlock a door that’s barred with a giant lever), but they still have to fill the other 90 minutes. The climax is also pretty dull; not only is the cat mostly MIA but it’s a carbon copy of the ending of Fulci’s own The Psychic, without that film’s reasonably entertaining thriller story to back it up.
All that said, it’s still better than his later stuff like Door Into Silence. It’s coherent, for starters, and the “is the cat good or bad” question is marginally entertaining. It also boasts some fun chemistry between David Warbeck and Mimsy Farmer, who gets roped into the movie’s plot because she’s apparently the only photographer in town, only for her photography skills to barely be utilized at any point after. And Patrick Magee is a hoot as the bad guy, though I was disappointed to learn later that the role was intended for Donald Pleasence. Note to anyone making a not very good movie up until 1995, when the actor died – whoever you end up getting, he’ll never add as much value to your film as Pleasence will. Please utilize time travel and ensure Pleasence’s involvement so that your future HMAD review will be more positive.
Anchor Bay’s disc contains two extras: a trailer that gives away every single death, and a Fulci bio that I’ve read before but whatever. Even though his later films are junk, he had a wonderful tribute/reception at a Fangoria convention (his first) just months before he died, which was apparently the first time he realized how beloved he was over here, and thus his story ends on a high note despite the career disappointments. I wish they’d put together a boxed set of his movies like they did for Bava, though I’m not sure which titles they still have the rights to anymore (my House By The Cemetery/The Beyond double disc is long out of print and quite valuable). It would be the best solution for movies like this – I can’t see too many wanting to buy it on its own, but if grouped with some others, it’d be a nice thing to have for your collection.
What say you?