The Black Cat (1941)

The Black Cat 1941 poster

Universal Pictures
 Broderick Crawford, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi
Directed by: Albert S. Rogell

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: The greedy family members of Henrietta Winslow (Cecilia Loftus) gather in her mansion when they think she is about to die.  When she doesn’t die and instead reveals that she has left her vast estate to her cats first and family second it sets the stage for murder, mayhem and yes, comedy.

Featured Feline: The black cat which the movie is named for is a lovely creature who sits through the opening credits and then causes fear amongst the relatives when it is said the cat means death to anyone it comes around.

The Black Cat 1941 black cat and shadow going down ramp

Which brings us to discuss the old lady, Henrietta.  She is a prime example of a crazy cat lady.  Not only does she own countless cats but she has a crematorium for them on the grounds of her estate and keeps their ashes in urns lining the walls.  A huge black cat statue stands guard over the crypt, as Henrietta believes black cats stand for death.  And this is where what should be a sympathic elderly cat lover falls apart, because it is revealed that the lone black cat in the story is not a cat she wanted on her property; on the contrary, she ordered her groundskeeper Eduardo Vigos (Bela Lugosi) to drown the black kitten but he saved it and kept it as a pet.

The Black Cat 1941 black cat close yowl

While the titles say the story was suggested by the Edgar Allan Poe tale, this movie has relatively nothing to do with that story except for one brief moment at the very end when the black cat meows from the crematorium furnace (and even then this doesn’t lead the hero to discover his girlfriend inside!)

The Black Cat 1941 black cat sitting

Cat Cattle Call: For an estate that is supposed to be crawling with cats there are oddly not that many in the movie and certainly not inside the house itself!  When the real estate agent Hubert (Broderick Crawford) and antiques dealer Penny (Hugh Herbert) first show up there is one spot they pass that is chuck full of cats (notice there are black cats included despite the supposed story about the one black cat on the estate).  The cats make Hubert sneeze and cough, of course someone has to be allergic to cats in the film!

The Black Cat 1941 group of cats

Later it is raining outside and Hubert confronts Eduardo about what he has in a carriage.  Hubert opens the doors and a bunch of cats burst out and run away.  Eduardo explains that he was trying to get the cats to the barn and out of the rain (thank goodness someone was thinking of the cats getting wet!)  These are the only two times Henrietta’s cats are seen en masse anywhere in the film.

When Henrietta is telling her family about her will she has two Siamese kittens sitting on her lap.

The Black Cat 1941 Siamese kittens

Kitty Carnage Warning! When Hubert and Henrietta are talking and passing back and forth an (unbeknownst to them) glass of poisoned milk, Hubert ends up pouring out a good portion of the milk into a saucer for a white cat.  Sadly the poor cat is seen deceased shortly afterwards, allowing Hubert to save Henrietta from drinking the milk herself.

The Black Cat 1941 white cat

Cat Burglars (Scene Stealers): At the very end of the film the black cat is discovered by Penny with a litter of kittens.  The black cat was actually a she cat!

The Black Cat 1941 black cat with kittens

Final Mewsings: Prejudism against black cats is deplorable.

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