We suspect you’ve noticed that there are rather a lot of film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat. Some are good, some less so, and a few of them are even vaguely connected to Poe’s original story (only vaguely, mind). What we have here is a Blu-ray boxset of two Italian versions: Lucio Fulci’s unimaginatively-titled The Black Cat (1981) and Sergio Martino’s preposterously- titled Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972).
In The Black Cat, Professor Miles’ (Patrick Magee) cat carries out a series of brutal murders (no, really) and so the professor decides to hang it with a teeny-tiny noose (no, really). Your mother would most definitely not approve. However, that just pisses off the titular moggy even more so things get entirely out of hand with Miles killing someone himself only to be betrayed to the police by that damn cat at the denouement (as is the traditional end of most versions of the story, so that’s not a spoiler).
Puzzling, the film is clearly set in an English village despite a map of Scotland on the police station wall. You see, an Italian film made in Britain with a British cast is a bit strange. We weren’t even sure what language the cast were originally speaking. If you watch the English version, there’s a definite feeling that at least some of the cast are dubbed while others might not be. That’s Magee’s voice but are his lips matching his words? We honestly weren’t sure. As the Inspector’s (David Warbeck) attempts at flirting with the heroine (Mimsy Farmer) are absolutely woeful, we also suspect Fulci didn’t have the highest opinion of our romantic capabilities either, but hey-ho. And don’t get us on to the professor’s rather interesting attempts at communicating with the dead that go absolutely nowhere. Almost as if the scriptwriters forgot what they were setting up. But while The Black Cat seems like a messy cross between Hammer House of Horror and Midsomer Murders, it’s actually quite fun.
With Sergio Martino at the helm, it’s no surprise that YVIALRAOIHTK (we’re not typing all that out again) is full-on giallo. Oliviero Rouvigny (Luigi Pistilli) is an alcoholic obsessed with his dead mother and he sleeps with apparently every woman in town, which is odd because he’s utterly charmless. In fact, the numerous sex scenes usually start with Rouvigny abusing women as a form of foreplay; including those with his oft-humiliated wife (Anita Strindberg). This only works in Italian cinema; don’t try this in real life. They often dress as his mother to gain his questionable attentions and you definitely shouldn’t try that one at home. Oh, and Rouvigny has a cat he adores called Satan who seems to have it in for his wife. Of course he does. Guess what happens to the cat. Then his niece (Edwige Fenech) turns up and sleeps with everyone (really, everyone). Anyway, there are murders in the town and it looks like there’s your standard giallo serial killer about. Who is it? Well, whoever it is, you know that cat is going to give the game away at the end.
Actually, the combination of Poe and giallo works rather well here. Giallo is always good value, and the Poe theme just gives a little twist beyond the usual sex/murder/pretty-visual tropes of the genre.
So that’ll be 5/10 for The Black Cat and 8/10 for the Other One. As we don’t have a graphic for a half, we make that a rounded 7.
Special Features: English and Italian versions / Featurettes / Interviews / Booklet
EDGAR ALLAN POE’S BLACK CATS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: LUCIO FULCI, SERGIO MARTINI / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: PATRICK MAGEE, MIMSY FARMER, DAVID WARBECK, AL CLIVER, EDWIGE FENECH, ANITA STRINDBERG, LUIGI PISTILLI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW