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Friday, October 30, 2020

THE BLACK CAT (1989) -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle


Italian horror director Luigi Cozzi wanted to create a tribute to Dario Argento, and in particular Argento's then-unfinished "Three Mothers" trilogy which thus far consisted of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, when he made the mind-blowing gorefest THE BLACK CAT (Severin Films, 1989).  

The fact that the film has nothing to do with either Edgar Allan Poe or black cats (save for the occasional close-up of one) is a good indication of the degree to which Cozzi threw away any semblance of logic or coherence when he re-wrote Argento collaborator Daria Nicolodi's original script to turn it into one of the most feverish, baffling horror films of the 1980s.

The story focuses on actress Anne Ravenna (Florence Guérin) and her director husband Marc (Urbano Barberini), who, along with his co-writer Dan, has envisioned a grand supernatural horror epic based on a medieval witch named Levana (Argento's "Third Mother"), to be played by Anne. 


Once they sell the idea to the disturbingly eccentric, egomaniacal producer Leonard Levin (Hollywood veteran Brett Halsey, THE DEVIL'S HONEY), who intimidates everyone around him despite being confined to a wheelchair, both writers and lead actress delve into the history of Levana to a degree that turns nightmarish when the ghost of the vengeful hag herself shows up to express her extreme displeasure with the idea.

With that basic premise established, Cozzi uses the idea of nightmares within nightmares to keep us guessing whether or not what we're seeing is real.

We see Anne being terrified by nocturnal assaults from the hideous, pus-oozing Levana, and there are numerous alarming instances concerning Anne's baby, his nanny Sara (Luisa Maneri), and various mysterious characters who appear and disappear inside the house (including a seemingly benign spirit named Sybil) but who may or may not be figments of Anne's imagination.


This dreamlike uncertainty gives Cozzi free reign to make the story as wild and unpredictable as he pleases (Cozzi himself has said that this project was his chance to do just the kind of movie he wanted) without worrying about it making any sense or following any restrictive rules of storytelling.

Indeed, we eventually reach a point where trying in vain to follow the plot is forgetten in favor of simply allowing the film's horror, gore, audacious plot twists, and incomprehensible imagery to wash over us in a cheesy, day-glo rush.

All of this is directed in sort of a poor-man's Argento style--the lighting in particular is immediately reminiscent of such films as SUSPIRIA--with elements of the maestro's films included here and there along with a blaring, cringey bad-80s rock score.


Horror goddess Caroline Munro (Cozzi's STARCRASH, MANIAC, CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER) is on hand to give her fans an eyefull as Dan's seductive wife Nora, who may or may not be having an affair with Marc and who may or may not be in league with Levana, who may or may not exist.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films has been transfered in 2K from pristine vault elements for the first time ever. Audio is English mono. Bonus features consist of an interview with Luigi Cozzi and Caroline Munro ("Cat On The Brain") and the film's trailer. The film was originally released in Italy as "Demons 6."

As giddily unhinged as Cozzi's PAGANINI HORROR but with even more freaky, nightmarish imagery (such as evil embryos floating in space via willfully bad SPFX and Levana at her most hideous puking her guts out all over a screaming Anne), THE BLACK CAT flaunts its vintage-cheese production values and revels in being just about the nuttiest Argento tribute (with some Fulci thrown into the mix) that you could ever expect to subject your senses to.

Buy it at Severin Films


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