Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Black Cat (1981)

I was excited to learn that Lucio Fulci had directed The Black Cat, based on the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. I figured it would be another Fulci film that just might stand proudly among the greats Don’t Torture A Duckling, Zombi and The Beyond. Unfortunately, I was sadly disappointed by the boring Black Cat.

The Black Cat tells the tale of Professor Miles (Patrick Magee), a man obsessed with communicating and talking with the dead. He sneaks into the cemetery at night like a common graverobber, seeking to record the voices of the deceased. He also has a black cat, whom he has some kind of psychic link to. Meanwhile, Jill (Mimsy Farmer) is a visiting photographer in the small town who is intrigued by Professor Miles’ experiments. When deaths that appear to be accidents start occurring, Jill believes Professor Miles’ black cat is to blame.

I would tell you more, but I was too busy fast forwarding through the oodles of extreme close-ups fixed upon people’s startled eyeballs.

I think the most disappointing thing about The Black Cat was that it was only loosely based on Poe’s tale and hardly resembles it at all (except for the end). Instead, we get a killer cat that stalks people and appears and reappears at will. Sure, it causes an impalement, a couple to die from gas poisoning, a woman to burn alive and lots of scratches, but the film plods along and is unusually subdued for Fulci. It even seems devoid of his usual panache and relies way too heavily on the close-ups of eyes to signal tension between characters.

This subdued approach let me down big time…it seemed to lack the shocking images of The Beyond and Zombi as well as lacking a tense storyline like Don’t Torture a Duckling (probably my favorite Fulci film). The story meandered, went nowhere and doubled back, losing me along its uneventful journey.

The acting and the characterization were also off as well. The acting is nothing special with the exception of some performances that were so outlandish it felt like they were falling into parody. Example: when a woman’s house went up in flames, she ran directly to a room engulfed in fire and tried to beat at it with a pillow. Her stupidity is rewarded as she goes up bigger and brighter than a Roman candle. This unbelievable action is only one of several instances where the characters’ kooky actions just don’t make sense. Many a time I was left rolling my eyes and reaching for the fast forward button.

I think had I been in a lazier mood, The Black Cat could have been a little better, but as it stands I still think it is a film that falls very short of the standard Fulci set with some of his other films. The Black Cat may be worth checking out if you are a Fulci completest, but anyone else is recommended to check out other, better Fulci films.

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