For the first season of Showtime's Masters of Horror series, Re-Animator creator Stuart Gordon went with some source material he knows pretty well by now: H.P. Lovecraft. But when the second season of "MOH" rolled around, Gordon and frequent collaborator Dennis Paoli went with another legendary author -- and the result is The Black Cat, one of the most creative Poe adaptations you're likely to come across.
Melding the author's own life with one of his most infamous tales, Gordon and company have managed to put together a fine mini-movie that should please Poe enthusiasts and newcomers alike. Plus it's got some really nasty gore.
Horror favorite Jeffrey Combs (who also works with Stuart Gordon on a regular basis) stars as Edgar Allan Poe, an author who is well known for his "fantastic" tales ... but all the guy really wants is to write poetry. Unfortunately he's also contending with a gravely ill wife, a slimy publisher who's no help at all, and an escalating debt that seems to have no end. All of Edgar's sorrows are "personified" by the family cat, Pluto. The damn thing's always around at the worst times, plus let's just say the freakish feline is not exactly a harbinger of good tidings. Oh, and the guy is most definitely going insane.
And when poor Poe's adorable wife takes a nasty turn for the worse, the tortured author goes pretty much off the deep end. Suffice to say that those familiar with the original story will either be outraged by the liberties taken here, or (like me) they'll appreciate Gordon's thoroughly satisfying spin on an oft-told tale. Plus there's a whole bunch of geeky little "in-jokes" and references that only the Poe fans will appreciate. Paced at an appreciably deliberate clip (ok, some might call it "slow") but never less than compelling, Gordon's adaptation is a pretty impressive piece of work -- and one that'd probably never see the light of day without a series like "MOH" backing it up. At the very least this episode delivers Jeffrey Combs at his absolute best.
Often dismissed as just another genre face, Jeffrey Combs has of course suffered through his share of bad movies and lesser performances, but his portrayal of a tortured Poe is nothing short of superlative. Like, award-worthy good. Or at least good enough to really enjoy for one solid hour, which is all an actor can really hope for. And it's a good thing, too, because the mini-movie is Combs' vehicle all the way. It's a quietly creepy little affair, to be sure, but since we ARE dealing with Stuart Gordon, one can expect two or three really gruesome geysers of gore. And let's just say that Mr. Gordon does not disappoint.
As is always the case on the "Masters" DVD, the extras are more than generous enough to forgive the films' 58-minute running time.
Supplements include an excellent audio commentary between Gordon and Combs, a pair of featurettes (one on the film as a whole, the other on the gooey gore), and a small handful of bells and whistles. Overall a very fine addition to the Masters of Horror collection. I know a lot of genre fans like to knock this series, but I don't get it. Aside from a few clunkers, I'd say both seasons were well stocked with some very fine frights.