On October 27th, 2015, Arrow video unleashes Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat” in a glorious box set entitled, ‘Black Cats,’ which consists of 2 different interpretations of the source material: Lucio Fulci’s ‘The Black Cat’ and Sergio Martino’s ‘Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key.’
‘THE BLACK CAT’
- Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker and Fangoria editor Chris Alexander
- From Poe into Fulci: the Spirit of Perverseness: film historian Stephen Thrower on Fulci’s Poe-tinged classic
- In the Paw-Prints of the Black Cat: a look at the original Black Cat locations
- Frightened Dagmar: a brand new career interview with actress Dagmar Lassander
- At Home With David Warbeck: an archive interview with The Black Cat Star
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
The film opens with a Man driving down the road, when the titular Black Cat appears, growling from the back seat. The Man, seemingly in a trance, lets go of the wheel and crashes. His body goes through the windshield, the car catches fire, and the Cat scampers away.
Taking the viewer on a tour of the village, the Cat climbs on various roofs and strolls down various streets until it arrives at the house of Robert Miles (the incomparable Patrick Magee), a self proclaimed psychic, who lives in his large home in exile. He’s sitting in his study listening to strange recordings when he is suddenly attacked by the cat.
Jill Trevers (Mimsy Farmer) is a photographer vacationing in the English village, taking various photos when she stumbles upon an open crypt, and upon venturing down, she finds a microphone among the skeletons. When she comes up, she is greeted by Sgt. Wilson (Al Cliver) and given a friendly warning not to disturb the dead.
Later, Maureen Grayson (Fulci fave Daniela Doria) is making out with her Boyfriend when they decide to take their tryst to a more secluded area: an airtight boat house. Just as things are getting hot and heavy, the Black Cat makes an appearance, cutting the power and air conditioning, and taking off with the key, leaving the poor couple to suffocate. Lillian Grayson (Dagmar Lassander), Maureen’s mother, comes home with a Man and finds Maureen not in bed where she should be and calls the police. Meanwhile, Professor Miles takes his portable recording unit to the grave of the Man who died in the car crash and tries to communicate.
The next day, Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck) speeds into town on his motorcycle and is greeted by Sgt. Wilson with directions to the police station and a speeding ticket. Jill catches Gorley’s eye as she gets into her car and drives away. Gorley is there to investigate the disappearance of the two young lovers.
Jill finds out that the microphone belongs to Professor Miles and goes to meet him at his home. He tells her he has powers and that the people of the village fear and hate him. The Professor goes on to explain that he is trying to record the dead to prove death isn’t the end. He goes even further as he hypnotizes Jill until the Cat breaks the trance by viciously scratching him. Professor Miles explains that he and the Cat both need and hate each other.
That night, a drunk Villager is stumbling home and runs afoul of the Cat, and is killed gruesomely when he tries to get away. Gorley goes to Jill and asks her to photograph the crime scene and notices the claw marks on the corpse’s hands.
Could the Black Cat be committing all these murders under its own volition, or under someone else’s?
Fulci’s ‘The Black Cat’ is a very loose interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s story of the same name. The central characters: the bitter old man (Magee) and the malevolent Cat, are present, but the film evolves beyond that of Poe’s story. Although all the characters were well acted, Patrick Magee stole the show, which is no surprise to this reviewer; the man’s talent was a force to be reckoned with. The score by Pino Donaggio is also very powerful.
Although, this is unfairly considered a lesser film by Fulci, ‘The Black Cat’ is still a very good film, focusing more on the story than the special FX.
‘YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY’
- Through the Keyhole: a brand new interview with director Sergio Martino
- Unveiling the Vice: making-of retrospective featuring interviews with Martino, star Edwige Fenech and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
- Dolls of Flesh and Blood: The Gialli of Sergio Martino: a visual essay by Michael McKenzie exploring the director’s unique contributions to the giallo genre
- The Strange Vices of Ms. Fenech: film historian Justin Harries on the Your Vice actresses’ prolific career
- Eli Roth on Your Vice and the genius of Martino
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
The opening credit sequence, as in ‘Torso’ soon after, is of an out of focus couple making love, and seemingly enjoying it. Only the couple in question is Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli) and Irina (the strikingly beautiful Anita Strindberg) who’re anything but in love.
Oliviero is hosting a party for a bunch of hippies from the local commune, just as an excuse to show off what little money he has left and also to not drink alone. Oliviero is a drunk, a sadist, a womanizer, and all around cruel man, who used to be a writer, but hasn’t written anything in a long time. He’s very cruel to Irina, publicly humiliating/shaming her every chance he gets, slowly chipping away at her sanity. Oliviero proposes a toast, which Irina ignores, so he empties a fruit bowl, grabs people’s glasses and pours in the contents. Then he tries to force the alcohol down Irina’s throat, causing her to run out in tears. When she is gone, Oliviero gropes his attractive Maid, Brenda (Angela La Vorgna) in front of everyone, then a song breaks out. The Black Cat, Satan, used to belong to Oliviero’s Mother, is very partial to Oliviero, and almost equally as cruel to Irina, attacking and tormenting her constantly. Irina comes back into the room a little later, finding everyone gone and wearing Oliviero’s Mother’s gown, to Oliviero’s chagrin. He commands her to take off the dress, but instead Irina insults his Mother, making Oliviero smack her down to the floor, then raping her in front of Brenda.
Oliviero and Irina go to the piazza to a book store where the young girl, Fausta (Daniela Giordano), propositions Oliviero to meet her later at the “usual place.” That night, Fausta shows up, but no Oliviero. She sees someone off in the distance and goes to investigate. When she finds no trace, Fausta turns to leave, but is viciously attacked and her throat sliced.
The next morning, Irina is awoken by Satan. She looks out the window and sees the police coming up the drive. Inspector Farla (Franco Nebbia) is there to question Oliviero about the murder of Fausta. Oliviero lies and says he was at the villa all night and Irina backs him up. After the Inspector leaves, Irina goes and checks the spare tire on the car, when Oliviero grabs her roughly and yells at her for her mistrust.
There is a severe thunderstorm that night and Brenda is lying in her bed, looking at a magazine of nude women, when she hears Satan yowling. She goes to check it out and finds Oliviero drunk and passed out in his study. She turns and sees Oliviero’s Mother’s gown on the floor, puts it on, and starts caressing herself as she looks at herself in the mirror. Just then, the door bursts open. She runs to close it and sees a strange Man standing across the way in the bushes, so she slams and locks the door, then finds Oliviero no longer in his study. Brenda runs upstairs and is attacked and sliced from sternum to waist. Irina wakes up just in time for Brenda to collapse on her and die on the floor. Oliviero walks drunkenly up the stairs and looks only slightly disturbed when he sees the body. Irina begs him to call the police, but he resolves to brick up the body in the wall in the cellar in fear of the police hauling him to the gallows.
Oliviero and Irina receive a telegram the next day saying that his niece, Floriana (the beautiful and ageless Edwige Fenech), is coming to stay with them. They all have a drink together, and Oliviero and Irina are trading insults with each other, when the doorbell rings and a Man drops off the gown that Brenda was wearing. Oliviero and Irina are confused at this, but he blames her for sending it out for cleaning, even though she didn’t, so he locks her in a closet and tells Floriana she went to bed. Irina is attacked by Satan and her screams alert Floriana to come get her. Floriana escorts Irina to her room where Irina tells her everything that is going on and they make love.
Another girl gets killed that night, but the killer is stopped and is revealed to be the owner of the bookstore, Bartolo, and Oliviero is absolved of all wrong-doing, but someone still killed Brenda and Oliviero insists it wasn’t him, but dark things are still occurring, so who is really responsible?
Although ‘Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key’ is very sexually charged, it remains the most faithful to the source material in reference to the drunken writer, the Cat, overall madness and paranoia, the gouging of the Cat’s eye, and the walling up of the bodies, albeit with some roles reversed. The Cat itself is an interesting character because, almost every time there is a closeup of it’s eyes, there is quick cut to the painting of Oliviero’s Mother. It’s like the Cat is an extension of Mother, always watching. Perhaps that is the reason the Cat is so close to Oliviero and hates Irina so vehemently.
This is my first Edwige Fennech film. I’ve been aware of her for many years, but just never saw any of her films. Apparently, this is the first time she played a “bad girl,” which she did very well, playing all sides of the opposition as she banged her way through town. Anita Strindberg’s beauty was positively polarizing, even when she had mascara streaming down her face from crying, and she sold the tortured vibe very well.
‘Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key’ also got the Arrow 2K treatment and looks amazingly crisp and clean, with very little grain or artifacts and the score by Bruno Nicolai sounds great.
“Black Cats” is definitely a box set worth owning. Order here.
Box Set Bonus Materials
- Brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
- Limited Edition 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films, Poe’s original story and more, illustrated with archive stills and posters