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The Black Cat

The Black Cat(1934)

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According to production files at the USC Cinema-Television Library, the film's final cost was $95,745.31. The MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that many scenes were considered objectionable due to sexual suggestiveness and "gruesomeness," in particular the scenes in which Poelzig is flayed and in which the cat is killed. Included in the suggestions by the Hays Office of things to change or delete were a scene of a cat licking blood on Joan's shoulder; the original opening scene of a wedding; the appearances of corpses; the suggestion of German nationality of the people attending the ceremony; the suggestion that the ritual was a parody of an actual religious ceremony; any sexual intimacy or hint of homosexuality; and references to Czechoslovakians in which they were described as "people who devour the young." Although New York, Kansas, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania state censors approved the film without deletions, Ohio, Ontario, Chicago, Quebec and Sweden all required the deletion of the flaying scene. Great Britain (where the film was titled The House of Doom) and Japan released it with further deletions. The film was rejected by censors in Italy, because "it could create horror," in Finland and in Austria, because it portrays an Austrian as a "military traitor and main criminal, thus offending the national feeling of the people." When the picture was re-issued in 1938, the Hays Office granted it certification.
       This was the first film in which Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared together. In a modern interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Edgar Ulmer confirmed that although the film had little connection to the Edgar Allan Poe story, the credit to Poe was retained to draw public interest. According to a modern source, E. A. Dupont was slated to direct the initial project, based on a script drafted by Tom Kilpatrick and Dale Van Every, which was shelved by Universal due to financial problems of the studio. In 1934, Ulmer wrote a different draft of the story, which was expanded into a screenplay by Peter Ruric. Kilpatrick later wrote continuities for The Black Cat, and was assisted by script clerk Shirley Kassel, who married Ulmer a year later. Modern sources also note that Poelzig's home was painted on glass by Russ Lawson and was photographed by Jack Cosgrove. Modern sources credit Jack Pierce with make-up and include Paul Panzer and Herman Bing in the cast, although Bing's appearance as a maitre d' in the beginning of the film was cut from the final print. The film was re-issued in 1953 as The Vanishing Body. In addition to many other features based on Poe's story, in 1941 Universal released The Black Cat, based on the same source, although the plot differs markedly from the original. It was directed by Albert S. Rogell and starred Basil Rathbone, Hugh Herbert, Broderick Crawford and Bela Lugosi.