Release Date(s)1989 (October 27, 2020)
Studio(s)21st Century Film Corporation/World Picture (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D+
A complicated production from the very beginning, 1989’s The Black Cat was released in various territories as Demons 6, despite the final film having nothing to do with demons. More puzzling is the actual title, which is credited to Edgar Allan Poe, even though the film has nothing to do with cats—only a few random shots of one on the sidelines. It began as a personal project for Daria Nicolodi, who had written the script for her then husband Dario Argento to direct and her to star in, nothing of which ever materialized. After taking it to Luigi Cozzi, who saw it as an opportunity to pay homage to Argento, he rewrote the script and Nicolodi left the project before it got in front of the cameras. Cozzi wound up making the film for 21st Century Film Corporation, the bastard film company son of Cannon Films. Menahem Golan, who ran the company, purportedly tinkered with it in post production, although Cozzi now admits that he had a hand in it as well.
The results are less than stellar, though not totally without merit. It’s a garish, nonsensical mess, clearly trying to evoke the same king of images and feelings of an Argento film, yet with admiration behind it. The plot involving a young actress who may or may not be possessed by the witch from her filmmaker husband’s latest project goes beyond the pale in terms of plot. There’s far too much of it, and none of it really makes sense. There’s even a scene in which they sit around the dinner table and talk about Suspiria, with a needle drop of the main theme chiming in the background. Made with the best of intentions, The Black Cat is a wild experience at best, going overboard with the visuals and gore, but never finding a level of comprehensibility.
The Black Cat makes it US home video debut on Blu-ray from Severin Films. According to the back cover, it has been “transferred in 2K from pristine vault elements.” It appears to be from an interpositive judging by the quality, which is surprisingly strong. Grain levels are mostly even, outside of the opening titles. The colors are highly saturated, including a multitude of greens, reds, and oranges, particularly when the disgusting-looking witch shows up, bathed in a rainbow of primaries and secondaries. Black levels are deep while brightness and contrast levels are ideal. It’s also a stable presention that’s clean and crisp.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in
English SDH. It’s an active soundtrack with the customary obvious English dubbing, featuring voices that should be very familiar to fans of Italian genre films. Everything comes through with vibrancy, including all of the glass-shattering and gooey sound effects, as well as the score and song selection. It’s a clean track as well, free of any leftover hiss, crackle, distortion, or dropouts.
The following extras are included, both in HD:
- Cat on the Brain (9:58)
- Trailer (2:06)
In Cat on the Brain, there are interviews with director Luigi Cozzi and actress Caroline Munro. Cozzi speaks about the quality of the film, almost working with Daria Nicolodi, showing the film to Menahem Golan who suggested minor edits, and his thoughts on the fate of Italian films since the introduction of TV. Munro recounts her positive experiences working with Cozzi and making the film, preferring to work more in Europe than the US, and gives her thoughts on the final product. Also included is the trailer, which was never used since the film never received a theatrical or home video release in the US. The website exclusive version of this release features a collectible slipcover as well.
Despite its over-the-top nature, The Black Cat has its share of fans. For them, Severin Films’ Blu-ray release is likely a godsend since the film has only ever been available in low grade bootleg form. For others, having another slice of Italian horror preserved is reason enough to pick it up.
- Tim Salmons