• The Black Cat (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: October 27th, 2020.
    Director: Luigi Cozzi
    Cast: Florence Guérin, Urbano Barberini, Caroline Munro, Brett Halsey, Michael Soavi
    Year: 1989
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    The Black Cat – Movie Review:

    Oddly enough, 1989’s The Black Cat started life as Suspiria De Profundis, a script written by Daria Nicoladi that was meant to be the final film in Dario Argento’s ‘Three Mother’s trilogy following Suspiria and Inferno. After all, she’d co-written Suspiria and at this point, Argento’s 2007 film Mother Of Tears, the official third part, wasn’t even on the director’s to do list. Luigi Cozzi was brought on board to direct, objected to ripping off his friend (and Nicoladi’s former flame) and her script was altered and retitled and she left the project, no longer interested in having a credit for it or in playing the lead. The end result is…. a mess, but a beautiful mess and the kind of mess that only Cozzi could have delivered. Somehow this thing wound up being bankrolled by 21st Century Film Corporation and a post-Cannon Films Menahem Golan! The film makes its official North American home video debut with this disc from Severin Films, thought it was released in certain territories as Demons 6, because why not. Also, don’t confuse this with Fulci’s The Black Cat or even Argento’s The Black Cat story from Two Evil Eyes, let alone Stuart Gordon’s adaptation of The Black Cat for the Master Of Horror series.

    Having nothing to do with the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name despite having his name on the title card (well, technically there is a black cat in the movie and a nod to the title but it is in no way the adaptation the title card would lead you to believe it is), we open with a film within a film scene where an actress named Anne Ravenna (Florence Guérin who was in Jess Franco’s Faceless as well as Top Model and who looks like a cross between Winona Ryder and Taija Rae) finishes up for the day and meets her husband, horror director Marc Ravenna (Urbano Barberini from Demons, a film that this one bears a slight resemblance to at times) to head home for the night. Note that her husband is not directing her current project, that film is being directed by a guy named Carl (Michael Soavi, in a small role). There they send off babysitter Sara (Luisa Maneri) so she can go dancing for the night and hang out with their infant son, Marc Jr. They live in a giant house and much of their furniture is made of bamboo. They also drive a posh white Mercedes Benz but claim, at one point, that they aren’t wealthy. It’s complicated.

    Anyway, they seem happy enough but Marc is under pressure to bring in a hit with his next picture, which he’s currently working on with writer Dan Grudzinski (Maurizio Fardo), who is involved in a romantic relationship with Nora (Caroline Munro, who had worked with Cozzi before on Starcrash) and who writes with a giant plush Godzilla in his office, a copy of Deep Red magazine placed prominently on his desk. Nora is another actress who just so happens to be Anne’s best friend. Their latest script is a follow up to a successful horror film called Suspiria and it involves the third mother, a witch named Lavana. They manage to get a wheelchair-bound producer named Leonard Levin (Brett Halsey of Cat In The Brain) interested in their pitch, and Anne is cast in the lead and almost instantly starts experiencing weird things around the house, starting with a visit from a horrendous looking woman who jumps out of the mirror at her and drools green slime all over her. It’s clear early on that Lavana isn’t the work of fiction that Marc and Dan thought she was, and things very quickly spiral out of control – and their fridge breaks!

    We’ll leave it at that, because you really shouldn’t know any more than that going into this one, except for the fact that it has a space fetus. Oh, and if you pay close attention to dumb shit in the background, you just might notice a cat playing a piano.

    This was clearly made quickly and on a modest budget, but Cozzi, being Cozzi and all, milks every penny he’s got and puts it all up there on the screen. There are some pretty boss effects here, including but not limited to a nice exploding torso, some icky maggots, the yucky witch effects and some random assorted bits and bobs of gore. Cozzi bathes much of the film in yellow, green and orange lighting gels, and while this was clearly done to evoke an Argento-esque look and feel to the movie, to the man’s credit, more often than not it works quite well. There isn’t always a reason for it, but the movie is pretty stylish in its own wonky way.

    As to the cast, everyone was clearly dubbed in post, that much is pretty noticeable, but they all handle the material well enough. Florence Guérin is the real lead here, getting more screen time than anyone else in the picture, and that’s not a bad thing as she’s more than fetching. Munro gets less to do but her role is an important one and she makes the most of it, even if it does look like maybe someone hit her a little too hard with the spray tan. Urbano Barberini and Maurizio Fardo are fine in their respective parts and hey, Brett Halsey is pretty fun to see here as the surly old movie producer.

    Let’s talk about the soundtrack. Not only does the movie use Goblin’s famous Suspiria soundtrack in multiple scenes, it also sounds like it’s lifting from Jaws a few times and may or may not be aping a Van Halen riff and a drum roll from Focus’ classic Hocus Pocus, not to mention a little bit of Morricone’s work from The Thing thrown in for good measure. Not enough? It also features contributions from White Lion and Bang Tango. This makes the score a lot more fun than Keith Emerson’s work on Inferno!

    The story may not always make sense – it really goes off the rails a few times – but Cozzi paces the picture pretty well, the film is never dull, and that’s what matters most. Entertainment value is here to be had in very healthy doses.

    The Black Cat – Blu-ray Review:

    The Black Cat arrives on region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and taking up 25.9GBs of space on the 50GB disc “transferred in 2k from pristine vault elements for the first time ever.” Overall, this one looks really solid. The colors are bold and bright and appropriately garish throughout, really popping quite nicely when they’re supposed to. We get strong black levels as well, and while there are times when detail gets a bit lost in the colored lighting used throughout the movie, most of the time the transfer excels in this area too. Skin tones look good and the image is free of any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track and it sounds just fine. The track is nicely balanced and free of any hiss or distortion. There might be a tiny bit of sibilance in a couple of spots if you listen really closely for it but you’d only be doing that if you were writing an anal retentive review. Otherwise, no complaints, this mix is a good one.

    The main extra on this disc is a ten-minute featurette entitled Cat On The Brain, which interviews both Luigi Cozzi and Caroline Munro. He talks about working with an uncredited Daria Nicoladi on the movie, not wanting to make it a direct follow up to Suspiria to avoid hurting his relationship with friend Dario Argento, his love of movies and moviemaking, and always doing his best even when dealing with microscopic budgets. Munro talks about how much she enjoyed working with Cozzi on this and on Starcrash, how she prefers making movies in Europe, how she got along with the younger cast members in the film and her thoughts on the lighting and look of the film overall. It’s a nicely put together featurette and quite interesting to watch.

    Aside from that we also get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    The Black Cat – The Final Word:

    The Black Cat is, in a word, zany. It doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense but it’s got that certain something that holds your attention regardless. There are some memorable set pieces here and a high enough WTF? factor to keep things both interesting and entertaining throughout. Fans of Italian trash horror are sure to have a lot of fun with this one and Severin has done a really solid job bringing the film to Blu-ray.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Black Cat Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 9 Comments
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Just like busses, you wait ages for a Florence Guerin Blu Ray, and three turn up at once.
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -
      I’ve watched a lot of grim stuff in my time but, I’m not sure I’m ready to watch someone’s fridge breaking down.
    1. Derrick King's Avatar
      Derrick King -
      I remember running across this on the Sci Fi Channel back in the late 90s (I think) at like 2 am, but have no actual memory of the film.
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      Cottage cheese with chives?
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -
      I’m watching this right now and have just peeped the cottage cheese with chives. Now, there’s a glass of milk with a lightbulb in it; always steal from the best.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      I have real mixed feelings about this film, In many ways it really is worse than Argento's Mother of Tears, and yet in other ways it's much more enjoyable, but not for the right reasons.

      I do wish Severin had used the De Profundis title on their cover. It is much more related to Suspiria than it is to Poe's Black cat. But then again it is naff all to do with the Demons franchise either.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      I'm a bit disappointed with the interview on the disc, it doesn't go into the legal issues around the film and people not getting paid. I know Cozzi was told flat out that the film was never released and had to provide evidence that it had been. Maybe they had to be careful as the film is now with MGM.
    1. Jack J's Avatar
      Jack J -
      No Italian audio!? I thought it was becoming standard to include Italian audio as well as English. Disappointing.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jack J View Post
      No Italian audio!? I thought it was becoming standard to include Italian audio as well as English. Disappointing.
      I was going to say English is the preferable option because of Caroline Munro's semi substantial role, however it's not even her voice used in the English dub.