THE BLACK CAT (1934)
The Black Cat, with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, directed by German expressionist Edgar Ulmer. Not a horror film but a moody meditation on the despair unleashed throughout the world by The Great War. After 15 years in a Russian prison camp, Lugosi has returned to Hungary to confront Karloff, the commander of the fortress of Marmoresz, who betrayed him and all his men when he surrendered to the Russians. Karloff has turned Ft. Marmoresz into his art-deco residence, where he is leading a satanist cult, and has married Lugosi’s wife. And then, when she died, he married Lugosi’s daughter. In real life, Lugosi served as an artillery officer in the Carpathians and was twice wounded in combat with the Russians, Karloff was spared service because of a bad bak, and Ulmer was too young to enlist. But they all lived through the war and its impact echoed within them. It was Universal’s biggest box office hit of the year, and was one of the first movies with an almost continuous music score.