Monday, November 2, 2020

THE BLACK CAT (1989) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Severin Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 89 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Cast: Florence Guérin, Urbano Barberini, Caroline Munro, Brett Halsey, Luisa Maneri, Karina Huff, Michele Soavi

The Black Cat (1989) comes to us from Italian director Luigi Cozzi, the director of such fun genre fare as Starcrash, Contamination, and the Paganini Horror, so you know tyou're in for a good time. This flick started off as a collaboration between Cozzi and writer/actress Daria Nicolodi who co-wrote both Suspiria and Inferno with her former lover Dario Argento (Tenebre), who at the time this flick was made had yet to finish off his Three Mothers Trilogy based on Thomas de Quincey's "Suspiria de Profundis", which he eventually did with Mother of Tears (2007).  It was while working on Paganini Horror with Cozzi that Nicoldi approached the director about writing and starring in project that would complete the Three Mothers Trilogy. However, Cozzi not wanting to intrude on his friend Argento's own trilogy instead imagined it as a film about a writer/director attempting to make an unofficial third film in that trilogy. This change in direction along with some sci-fi elements he added seems to have put her off the project, with the director moving ahead without Nicolodi, then further altering his vision when the producer's demanded more horror elements and less sci-fi, changing the name to Edgar Allen Poe's The Black Cat, even though the finished film has nothing to do with Edgar Allen Poe other than some random shots of a back cat that add nothing to the tale.

The flick opens with a director (Michaele Soavi, Cemetery Man) making a giallo film with heavy nods to Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (1964) starring actress Anne (Florence Guerin, Faceless), which makes for a cool movie-within-a-movie opening. We then meet Anne's writer/director husband Marc Ravenna (Urbano Barberini, Demons) who is trying to fund a new film project, he's making a movie about the witch Levana from Thomas de Quincey's essay "Suspiria de Profundis", hoping to make the mobie a star vehicle for his wife. That night they sit around the dinner table with co-writer, Dan (Maurizio Fardo, Escape from the Bronx) and his wife Nora (Caroline Munro, Maniac) during which they discuss the project along with Argento's films, we even get a music cue from Suspiria that pops up during the conversation. Son after  they get a pitch-meeting with eccentric movie producer Leonard Levin (Brett Halsey, The Devil's Honey) who is willing to give them as much money as needed to make the film, but at what cost? 

As Anna begins to prepare for the role of Levana she is seemingly visited upon by the real Levana who initially arrives by exploding through a bedroom mirror, which is perhaps a callback to a similiar effect in Argento's Inferno. The cosmic witch who taunts Anne by saying that she will never allow her become Levana, the witch also seems to be encouraging the actress to sacrifice her infant son, driving the actress to the brink of madness. Meanwhile her husband is sleeping with hos co-writers wife Nora, who is pushing hard to steal the lead role away from the increasingly unhinged Anne.

The Black Cat is a nutty bit of sci-fi/horror from Cozzi who lays on large swaths of cool-looking Argento-esque gel-colored lighting and bizarre cosmic-witch happenings. The witch Levana is a pimple-covered horror with glowing eyes, often spewing green barf during her scenes, sometime right into Anne's mouth, yuck. The flick is very well-made with great production value,  it looks great from start to finish with some unexpected cosmic touches like a space-fetus that adds to the charm of this kitchen-sink production, which includes not just  bold references to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace, but what looks to be a reference to the animated anthology Heavy Metal with a young woman carrying around a glowing green-globe, on top of the predetermined connection to Argento's Suspiria and Inferno

This is a film defied my expectations from the get-go, winning me over from the opening moments which are accompanied by a tune from hair-metal band Bang Tango and then throwing me off-kilter with it's weird mixture of witchcraft, a movie-within-a-movie premise, and some seriously out-there cosmic elements, this is a real gem of late-80's Italian cinema. 

Audio/Video: The Back Cat (1989) arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films framed in 1.66:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. The source of this new master is a 2K scan from "pristine vault elements" and the source looks wonderful with good clarity and some modest depth throughout. The colors are well saturated and the blacks are solid throughout, it's a fine looking HD image, the scene bathed is colored lighting look absolutely luminescent.  the only blemishes I could discern was an occasional white speckle every now and again. Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track with optional English subtitles. There were no issues with distortion or hiss, dialogue is strong and the score from Vince Tempera (The Psychic) sounds pleasing in the mix, as do the rocking tunes from hair-metallers Bang Tango and a very brief snippet of White Lions's cover of Golden Earrings "Radar Love". 

The extras are slim but not uninteresting, we get a 2-min trailer for the film and a 10-minute interview with director Director / Co-Writer Luigi Cozzi and Actress Caroline Munro, both interviewed separately. Cozzi gets into how the flick began as sci-fi but he was coerced by the producers into making it more of a horror film as they were not into science fiction. He also gets into the contribution of screenwriter Daria Nicoldi, and how this flick is tied into the world of Suspiria and Inferno, coming years before Dario Argento made The Mother of Tears, this was a de facto third witch film. The still gorgeous Munroe gets into her character, describing her as a naughty girl, and touching on what it was like working with Cozzi whom she says made her very comfortable. The single-disc release arrives in a black keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork, the disc itself featuring an excerpt of the same key art. 

Special Features:
- Cat On The Brain – Interview with Director / Co-Writer Luigi Cozzi and Actress Caroline Munro (10 min) 
- Trailer (2 min) 

The Black Cat (1989) is a totally whackadoo slice of Italian cinema that throws a lot of disparate elements into the genre cinema crock pot and turns out a green-slime spewing splatter horror platter that I found big-time satisfying. The Severin Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, the extras are a bit light but the flick definitely exceeded my expectations. To be honest it's a lot more fun that Argento's Mother of Tears, yeah, I said it.  

More Screenshots from the Severin (2020) Blu-ray: