Available Tuesday, July 17th
Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe
Elyse Levesque as Virginia Poe
Patrick Gallagher as Barman
Christopher Heyerdahl as Rufus Griswold
Ken Kramer as Doctor
Directed by Stuart Gordon
I’m one of the few “Masters of Horror” viewers last year that didn’t particularly enjoy “The Black Cat” as much as everyone else. As a matter of fact, I’ll say that most of the episodes during the second season were pretty much abysmal. Now, before you take away my horror fanatic membership card, I’ll just say that overall “The Black Cat” isn’t as bad as, say, “The V Word,” but it’s just essentially sub-par and lacking in any real overall suspense, especially as it winds down to the climax. Watching it a second time, it’s a lot better, but still not my favorite of the series.
Yes, Poe fans will definitely make dreamy eyes at the episode’s utterly twisted premise within a premise, and in some ways, “The Black Cat” is a very good insight as to how twisted horror tales are only conceived from the twisted minds, but all is lost in an otherwise sappy ending that seemed to just shy away from the blunt force that was most of the episode. Any attempts at social commentary were obviously trashed this season in exchange for episodes revolving around the creative experience, which is something I’m for, but that didn’t stop the creators from trying and failing with many of the other episodes of the season.
But we’ll get to that, later.
Until then, “The Black Cat” attempts to take a look at how Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat,” and most of his tales were conceived by offering a glimpse into his mad mind a la “Adaptation.” and shows the author at his lowest point. Through this featured low point of his life, stories begin to blossom from his mind, and recognizable themes begin to emerge from all around his house, while Gordon and crew compose Poe’s life of tragedy containing elements of his stories and vice versa.
Jeffrey Combs is yet another lure to this apparently banner episode, as Combs, in his usual cartoonish persona, gives a rather fascinating depiction of Poe as this parasitic drunkard who really can’t afford to help his wife stay healthy with stories that can’t get published, yet the inspiration for his famous short stories strike once tragedy and terror ensues with his damn black cat. Sick and twisted are in no short supply as Gordon continues with his prerequisite demented tone that makes up this play on Poe’s imagination, with a well paced story, and some nauseating violence that’s worth hoopla.
But then there’s also a sick sense of dark humor that works more than it misses. Poe’s strangling of his editor mimicking his very short tale of murder and conscious is an especially humorous moment, and the rivalry between he and his cat is often entertaining to watch. And it’s tough not to laugh at the climax where Poe seems intent on selling himself out. Sadly though, “The Black Cat” seems in search of an identity with a story that constantly teeters from dark comedy, to horror, to drama, and inevitably the sentimental ending that signaled the writers had a hard time bringing it all to a close.
Overall, Gordon rebounded from his brutally boring “Dreams in the Witch House” with a very flawed, but entertaining episode with raucous performances that’s much better the second time around, even if it still suffers.
Of course, regardless of the episode you’re playing, you’ll be hard pressed not to enjoy the set up Starz! Entertainment hands viewers with a crisp transfer, booming score, and extras which are in short supply. Among the special features is an entertaining spoiler-laden Making-of Featurette that explores the origins of the episode with interviews from Combs, Gordon and the cast, the process of making Combs look like Poe, rehearsals, and mishaps with the many stunt cats. There’s also “Bringing down the Axe,” a five minute basic special effects extra exploring the dynamic gore and make-up from KNB EFX that’s rather interesting and unique, an obligatory biography for Gordon you can find almost anywhere, trailers for other DVD Releases from Starz! Entertainment, the script for “The Black Cat” which you can read on your DVD Rom and a basic photo gallery that’s also easily attainable on the internet.
“The Black Cat” truly makes itself worthy of the purchase even if the extras leave much to be desired.