The original tale of The Black Cat tells the story of a man who murders the family pet by hanging, which incites the burning of his home. After finding a replacement, he becomes afraid of the creature as a mark on its fur reminds him of the death of its predecessor. While exploring the cellar of his new home, the feared feline nearly causes a tumble. His wife intervenes as he tries to kill the animal for this near accident. She is killed instead and bricked up behind a wall in the cellar to conceal the crime. The man is caught when the police hear cries while completing their investigation. When they tear down the wall, they find the cat with the wife’s body.
Even at a passing glance it is refreshingly clear just how different Martino and Fulci’s movies are. While Martino takes the whodunit giallo approach, the black-gloved killer waiting in the shadows as the cat itself is employed as an omen of sorts; Fulci presents us with an atmospheric creature feature, in which the cat is directly responsible for the deaths that occur whether by its hypnotic yellow eyes or by its own gleaming claws. The key similarity, unsurprisingly, is the ingenious ending from the original short story in which a discovery behind a bricked up wall leads us to comeuppance of the true culprit.
Like the colour orange in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), Martino’s use of the black cat’s presence as a sign of danger while foreshadowing the capture of the villain is wickedly clever. Lucio, however, stays true to what his fanbase had come to expect at that point in his career, breaking out those grim and grisly gore-filled moments whenever he finds the opportunity. His interpretation most certainly has a higher entertainment factor with leaves that creepy, creaking door open for a few unintentionally amusing scenes. As they say in the biz, “Never work with children or animals!”
Regardless, this double feature from Arrow is a beautiful and vibrant restoration, best noticeable in Fulci’s adaptation and its many close-ups of the killer cat’s eyes; the yellow and black glisten like crystals in sunlight. If you are a lover of great Italian horror, I highly recommend this excellent pairing as it represents some of the best in genre movies the country has to offer.