The Crimes of the Black Cat sounds like it should have been directed by Roger Corman and should have starred Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. Wrong! Thank you for playing.
This gem’s a nasty little giallo from 1972 featuring the always-pleasant-to-look-at Silva Koscina. You could have loved her in Hercules (1958), Lisa and the Devil (1973), and The House of Exorcism (1975)…but probably didn’t. You might have loved her in Uncle Was a Vampire (1959), but if you did, therapy should be seriously considered – I have some names. It also features the always wooden Anthony Steffen. I doubt if you loved him in Django the Bastard (1969) or The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) but I couldn’t resist the name-dropping opportunity – and what names. Mr. Steffen also held his own with acting giant Lee Majors in Killer Fish (1979).
The director of the film, Sergio Pastore, has few credits, but four years before making tonight’s film, he directed; Chrysanthemums for a Bunch of Swine.
What kind of mind…
Can you picture that on a marquee?
In the 60’s and 70’s, my generation was “…working on our night moves…” (Bob Seger), and trying to find “…paradise by the dashboard lights…” (Jim Steinman/Meat Loaf), at the drive-in theater. The screen entertained and encouraged our fumbling explorations with dancing hot dogs, buttercup popcorn, and Hammer Studio’s latest vampire/Frankenstein/mummy flicks, all with pristine sets, light from everywhere, and buxom babes in peril wearing lots of clothes with puffy sleeves. These were horror movies, but every victim died clean and the blood spilled was bright Christmas red. These were horror movies, but the monsters, be they covered by fur, bandages, or cape, felt as if they’d had a shower reasonably recently. Said monsters might assault a woman, but generally, the camera cut away from the actual deed, and clothes though disheveled and ripped, remained strategically intact even when sinking in quicksand.
I admit profound ignorance about the existence of drive-in theaters in Europe during this time. But I discovered the “drive-in” films they were then making in Europe were clearly different…and I have been drawn to watch them like a car crash ever since.
They are sexy; occasionally fleetingly and implied, but often prolonged and explicit, and there are no warning labels.
They are violent; occasionally fleetingly and implied, but often prolonged and explicit, and there are no warning labels. Organs and limbs could, at any moment, become free to roam willy-nilly.
They are dark. Light with no discernible source is non-existent. In many scenes, light is non-existent.
The sets, in many cases are real…and often older than our country…and do not feel as if they’d had a shower this century.
These films are foreign…foreign in language, and sensibility, and foreign to my personal history and experience.
That does not make them wrong.
It makes them interesting.
It does not make them good.
That’s good enough for me.
Tonight’s film, The Crimes of the Black Cat is far from original. If you saw Blood and Black Lace (1964), which, frankly, would stun me, you know this story. The Crimes of the Black Cat is clearly and simply a second artistic take on a story that clearly and simply didn’t need a first take.
It does feature some novel weapons of murder; a yellow Volkswagen, a cat with poisoned claws, and a hole in the ground. It does surpass my friend Eric Johnson’s bar (not known for its height) for filmic pulchritude. It fails utterly in my friend Joe Gatton’s Creative Backlighting Standard.
Otherwise, I’ve seen it. I loved it. You can skip it. You’re welcome.