THE BLACK CAT—-talk about a Poe-relative: this 1941 comedy-mystery has nothing in common with the classic 1934 film and it’s only resemblance to Edgar Allan Poe’s short story is the title and the presence of an ebony feline. The comedy isn’t funny, but the cast give it a boost, it’s fast-paced as directed by Albert S. Rogell, and it looks swell, photographed by Stanley Cortez.
Two dopes (Broderick Crawford and Hugh Herbert) show up at a creepy mansion (stormy night) when a gaggle of greedy relatives gather to see who gets what piece of eccentric grandmothers will. There’s a murder, and the search for 70 minutes worth of sappiness is on.
Not yet quite the beefy menace of the 50s, Crawford displays adept timing with the comic patter he must undergo with Herbert, whose patented stammering and “woo-woo” giggle grate after the first use, let alone the 12th. The others include Basil Rathbone, Gladys Cooper and Bela Lugosi, who hardly has anything to do but lurk on the sidelines. Newcomer Alan Ladd is billed 11th out of eleven. Pretty Anne Gwynne lights up her scenes.* Best of all is the high camp job from Gale Sondergaard, whose icy housekeeper is allowed one great demented cackle.
Diverting nonsense, with Cecilia Loftus, Claire Dodd and John Eldredge.
* Looking somewhat like Lana Turner, apart from a busy career in B-movies, Gwynne was one of the most popular pinup girls of WW2.