Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi), in the company of stranded newlyweds, Peter and Joan Alison (David Manners and Julie Bishop) returns home after 15 years as a prisoner of war, and pays visit to his former commanding officer, Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff) now a prominent architect and practitioner of black magic. Werdegast inquires after his wife only to learn she is now dead and preserved in a glass coffin in Poelzig's house, along with other women. Poelzig has also married Werdegast's daughter and now has his sights set on Joan Alison, whom he plans to sacrifice to Satan. Werdegast and Poelzig fight in a battle of the wits for Alison's life.
The Black Cat (1934) is one of my favorite of the classic Universal horror pictures of the 1930s and 1940s. Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, it is the first movie to pair Lugosi and Karloff. It's nice to see Lugosi in the role of the hero, though it's clear his character has his own dark nature, and Karloff is fantastic as the quiet, still satan worshipping Poelzig. David Manners, as the romantic lead is about as dull as he is in the other Universal horrors in which he was similarly cast, but here he is actually given plenty to do. The movie is brilliantly art directed, and taught and suspenseful throughout its just over an hour length. I've watched this movie a number of times and was surprised to discover I'd never done so during any of my previous Halloween Countdowns.