Review Date: December 28, 2000
Released by: EC Entertainment
Release date: 1/12/2001
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
EC Entertainment has released Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat (Gatto nero, Il in Italian) onto an all region NTSC DVD. This release comes nearly 3 months before Anchor Bay's version is scheduled to street, but as we know being first doesn't always mean better. Lets take a look at EC's DVD and see how it holds up.
After two teens disappear in a small town, local police call Scotland Yard for assistance in finding them. Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck) arrives on his motorcycle and immediately begins investigating. Maureen's mother eventually goes to Professor Robert Miles (Patrick Magee), who has the ability to communicate with the dead and control the minds of others. He takes a ring of Maureen's and describes where Maureen is. Her mother heads to a nearby boathouse with police, where they discover the teens locked inside a small room. They're too late however - the two teens are dead from suffocation.
Inspector Gorley's work has just begun; a series of strange murders begin to occur in the small town. Gorley enlists the help of a professional photographer by the name of Jill Trevers (Mimsy Farmer) to take photos of the bodies. Jill begins to notice that all the victims have similar scratches on their bodies, which appear to be cat scratches. She talks to Professor Rober Miles about her suspicions of a cat being responsible for the murders. He tells her that he's certain a black cat is indeed responsible for the murders.
Jill tells Inspector Gorley of her theory on the cat - that the cat was only an instrument being controlled by Professor Robert Miles, doing his dirty deeds. At first Gorley thinks the whole idea is crazy, but that quickly changes once he himself is attacked by the black cat. Miles tried to kill the cat before too many suspicions began pointing to him, but his attempts failed and the cat is no longer the one being controlled. With Gorley in the hospital, it's up to Jill to prove that the cat and Miles are responsible for the killings - a notion that the police find absurd. She sneaks into Miles' home to find some evidence, but the odds turn against her when Miles discovers her sneaking about. Jill's only hope is that someone will find her before Miles and the cat kill her, but with Gorley in the hospital her chances of survival appear slim.
The Black Cat isn't one of Fulci's more talked about films. Check any of the numerous horror based message forums around the Internet and you'll see that Fulci's The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and Zombie are often his most talked about movies. Rightfully so, as each one of those is what many consider to be some of Fulci's best work. After seeing The Black Cat, I can understand why many don't discuss it. For one, the story itself isn't very good. There should've been more focus on the cat, and there should've been a lot more murder scenes involving the cat. But hey, many Fulci mans aren't watching for the story. They're watching for the gore and Fulci's visual style. Sadly, neither is present in The Black Cat. A few cat scratches that result in a few spurts of blood here and there, but compared to some of his others, The Black Cat is really lacking in this department. I was expecting a scene involving the cat tearing out someone's eyeball; that just didn't happen though, nor did anything even close to that happen. The worst the cat does his scratch...Zzzzzz.
It was great to see David Warbeck, an actor who appears in many Fulci films, but I sure wish Catriona MacColl had been cast to play the roll of Jill. The actress who played Jill just didn't do much for me, and Catriona and David had a chemistry between them that worked well on the screen. Maybe Fulci should've stuck to his "living dead" films, as those are his masterpieces. After The Black Cat came The Beyond, so at least he moved back in the right direction.
EC Entertainment presents The Black Cat in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer in what should be a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, though I'm not sure it is (more on that later). Sadly, this transfer is far from perfect and ends up having a lot of distracting problems. Colors are faded, which you expect to some extent with this type of low budget movie, but I think they can, and will be improved on Anchor Bay's upcoming DVD. Some minor MPEG artifacting is visible during some of the fog scenes. Minor grain is present throughout many of the dark scenes, though I should note it never really gets heavy or becomes too distracting. Print blemishes are very persistent throughout the presentation - specks, lines, scratches and even some colors spots that streak across the screen several times. The color spots in particular are annoying, as they briefly appear during numerous scenes throughout the film. Overall the image remains sharp, but some scenes do appear soft and lacking in detail. Flesh tones appear slightly pale, though I imagine that's normal and no fault of the DVD.
The aspect ratio doesn't appear to be the 2.35:1 ratio that it should be. It appears closer to 2:1 and is is dangerously close to the edges, showing it has been zoomed in slightly. As a result, when overscan from a TV is introduced, cropping on the sides occurs. An example is when the opening credit appear, letters at the end of the various names are cropped at the edge of the TV. This doesn't happen on my computer's monitor, since no overscan is taking place. Also, the image appears to be slightly stretched on both the TV and computer monitor.
Overall this ends up being a weak transfer that definitely needs a lot more restoration and some technical fixes. Hopefully Anchor Bay's transfer on their upcoming DVD (March 2001) will be better. As it is, I'm going to rate this a C-. I'll investigate the aspect ratio issue further and update the review accordingly. If I'm wrong about the aspect ratio I'll bump the rating up to a C, though I can't imagine I am wrong.
The Black Cat is presented in English Mono. Sounds and dialogue could be clearly heard throughout the film. No distortion or background noise was heard. Musical score was clear and fairly strong for a mono track. A good mono track overall.
Not many supplements here but definitely some worth checking out. First up is a theatrical trailer for The Black Cat, which is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Then there's a few dozen stills from the movie itself and the various VHS covers of The Black Cat from releases around the world.
The highlight of this disc is the interview with Lucio Fulci and David Warbeck at Eurofest 1994. It's the same interview on EC's new House by the Cemetery DVD and it does play for the entire 42 minutes (EC's original House by the Cemetery DVD had a 32 minute interview). Here are my comments on that interview:
Fulci talks about past projects such as The Beyond, New York Ripper, and many more. He also discussed his current project, which ultimately turned out to be The Wax Mask, though he ultimately ended up not working on it all that much because he passed away. He even said that if his next project (again, that turned out to be Wax Mask, which was his last) was successful he'd love to do The Beyond 2 and even The Beyond 3. Was he joking? Probably not. Warbeck himself didn't do much talking but obviously most fans are going to want to question Fulci. A great interview that will certainly be cherished by many Fulci fans. The only bad part of it was that he tends to ramble on in his answers, plus you have someone translating them to English for the audience, so there's really not all that many questions that are asked. Still, Fulci fans will probably enjoy those long answers...I know I did. With a runtime of 42 minutes it will be a real enjoyment for both new and old Fulci fans. I should also note that the interview has 10 additional minutes that weren't present in the last EC DVD release, plus it has English subtitles this time around since the audio isn't all that great.
The interview obviously adds a lot of value to this DVD and to the supplements rating, which I'm rating a B-. I did take into account that this isn't an original extra and is simply ported over from another DVD.
The Black Cat ends up being a letdown for Fulci fans, lacking in the gore department and on the visuals that so many Fulci fans love. The transfer on this DVD is also a letdown, with lots of small, annoying problems that become distracting. There are some decent extras, which are highlighted by the Fulci interview from Eurofest 1994 (also found on the House by the Cemetery DVD from EC). With Anchor Bay's DVD on the horizon, I think most fans are going to want to wait for that one if they do happen to be a fan of this film.
Movie - C-
Image Quality - C-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B-
- Running Time - 1 hour 24 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Mono sound
- Lucio Fulci / David Warbeck interview
- Theatrical trailer
- Stills galleryy