Masters Of Horror: The Black Cat

Masters Of Horror: The Black Cat (2006)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Elyse Levesque,
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Photo Gallery, Screenplay

The second season of "Masters Of Horror" has been a bit of a mixed bag so far but one of the absolute season highlights is now available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment – Stuart Gordon's "The Black Cat."

"The Black Cat", as the name suggests, is a story inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story of the same name. In actuality, it is even more than that. The episode tells the story of Poe trying to find inspiration for a new story and lives through a bloody nightmare himself, which is the story of "The Black Cat." The film tells the genesis of the story by taking us deep into the literary masters' twisted mind, filled with fears, guilt and gory terrors.

Jeffrey Combs plays Edgar Allan Poe in this episode and boy, does he have him down. I find it interesting that Combs never really managed to break out of the B-horror circle when in fact he is an incredibly talented and diverse actor. A character actor who plays his guys to the hilt, once again he presents us with a figure that is so intense and so intensely human that he becomes frightening in his own right – particularly in the circumstances that "The Black Cat" throws him into. This may sound a bit cryptic, I know, but watch the episode and you will know exactly what I am talking about. Combs carries the entire 60-minute feature film and leaves a remarkable impact on the viewer.

The DVD features the original 1.78:1 widescreen presentation of the film in a 16×9 enhanced transfer. The image is absolutely clean and without noise or grain, rendering the gothic atmosphere of the film immaculately. Strong colors, deep blacks and fine hues make out the image and especially the dream-like sequences come to life with remarkable brilliance. Edges are well defined but never exaggerated and without edge-enhancement, the transfer is pleasing in every aspect.

The DVD contains a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track that is nicely balanced and has a very good frequency response. Given the sometimes frenetic nature of the film the sound adequately reflects this by being equally dynamic and frenetic, making aggressive use of the surround channels at times to increase the effect. Dialogues are well integrated and never drowned out.

As extras the release contains a commentary track featuring director/co-writer Stuart Gordon and the film's star, Jeffrey Combs. The track is engaging and informative laying out many of the details about the production and conception of this episode.

Next up is a Making-Of featurette that gives viewers a look behind the scenes. Together with "Bringing Down The Ax," a look at the special effects in the film, these featurettes nicely add to the release with valuable insight. A photo gallery and the episode's screenplay are also included.

"The Black Cat" is the best season 2 "Masters Of Horror" entry so far in my humble opinion. It perfectly captured the Edgar Allan Poe Flair, the torment, the insanity, the terror of his nightmarish stories and brought it to life by turning the table. Wonderful approach to the material, and masterfully executed every step along the way. For every horror fan or for those of you who want to see the crème de la crème of the "Masters Of Horror" TV horror series, make "The Black Cat" a must-buy.