Edgar Ulmer

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.0 Black Cat (1934)
7.3 Detour (1945)
6.8 Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)
6.5 The Strange Woman (1946)
6.5 The Man from Planet X (1951)

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.
Edgar Ulmer, originally a Jew from Czechoslovakia raised in Vienna, assistant to the theatrical director Max Reinhardt, assisted Murnan in Der letzte Mann (1924) and Sunrise (1927) and was one of the young directors who crafted the epochal semi-documentary Menschen am Sontag/ People on Sunday (1929) in collaboration with Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder (screenwriter) and Fred Zinnemann (cameraman). He mainly directed exotic and sci-fi movies, but not only. His second film was the musical Mr Broadway (1933), followed by the melodrama Damaged Lives (1933).

Black Cat (1934), a combination of Edgar Allan Poe's horror and German expressionism, pitches two evil souls against each other until they annihilate each other. Their hatred is unstoppable and their evil is limitless. The witnesses are two ordinary naive people on a honeymoon.

American writer Peter and his wife Joan are enjoying their honeymoon in Hungary. on a train, they meet psychologist Vitus, who offers them a ride. A car accident leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere, but it turns out Vitus' "friend" Hjalmar lives nearby, in a modernist house. The woman is slightly injured, so they honeymooners decided to stay at the weird house. Unbeknownst to them, Vitus confronts Hjalmar: Hjalmar's house sits on the graveyward of a massacre, and Hjalmar was a war criminal. Vitus was one of the prisoners. His wife and daughter were kidnapped by Hjalmar and never returned. The writer senses that something weird is going on. At night, Hjalmar shows Vitus what happened to his wife: she died two years after the war and is now preserved like a mummy in a glass cage. Vitus tries to shoot Hjalmar, but a black cat saves the life of Hjalmar. Hjalmar calmly shows him back to his bedroom. Then Hjalmar retires to his own bedroom with a young and beautiful woman, to whom he forbids to leave the room (probably hypnotizing her): she is Joan, Vitus' daughter, whom Hjalmar has married. Before falling asleep, Hjalmar reads a satanic book about sacrificing a woman. The confrontation between Vitus and Hjalmar turns (literally) into a chess game. The honeymooners decide to leave, but Hjalmar has different plans for the bride: his servants take her to his room, and Hjamar plays the ritual Bach fugue at the organ. The honeymooner meets Joan, learns that Hjalmar married first the mother and then the daughter, and tells her that her father is still alive and is actually in the same house looking for her. The sacrifice begins: Hjalmar invokes the devil (with ridiculous Latin sentences) while the unfortunate woman is escorted by his servants through a crowd of suit-and-tie zombies and Greek-like nymphae. Vitus helps the woman escape, and she reveals to him that his daughter is still alive. They find her: Hjalmar has been preparing her body to turn it into a mummy like her mother. Vitus takes his revenge and tortures Hjalmar. Then, while the honeymooners are running out of the house, Vitus pulls the lever that blows up the house and kills both him and Hjalmar.

The entire cast of Moon Over Harlem (1939) is black actors, including the only film appearance by jazz clarinetist Sidney Bechet.

Girls in Chains (1943)

Bluebeard (1944) includes a puppet opera.

Strange Illusion (1945)

Detour (1945) appartiene a un'altra era dell'horror film.

Un vagabondo chiede un passaggio a un automobilista e si offre di guidare per un tratto; e quando si accorge che l'ospite è morto, ne occulta il cadavere e ne assume l'identità; ma una autostoppista, che prima era stata caricata dall'altro, scopre la finzione e lo istiga a continuare la truffa, visto che c'è in ballo una forte eredità; quando il vagabondo, con la morte della ragazza, riesce a liberarsi di quest'incubo, rimane col terrore di essere arrestato dalla polizia per un doppio omicidio che non ha commesso.

The Strange Woman (1946) is the portrait of a cynical sexual temptress.

Club Havana (1946)

Ruthless (1948)

The Man from Planet X (1951), in which an alien uses magic to conquer a quiet village,

Babes in Bagdad (1952),

Murder Is My Beat (1955)

Daughter of Dr Jekyll (1957)

Naked Venus (1958)

Daughter of Dr Jekyll (1957),

Beyond the Time Barrier (1960) relies on a flawed script but it's perhaps Ulmer's best in terms of mise-en-scene.

His last films were The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) and L'Atlantide/ Journey Beneath the Desert/ The Lost Kingdom (1961).

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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