Time out for another look at the classic Mexican films of director Carlos Enrique Taboada, this time his 1975 film “Mas Negro Que La Noche” aka “Blacker Than The Night”. Of all of his genre films, this one has your Favorite Catgirl truly interested from the beginning with it’s initial resemblance to the old Edgar Allen Poe story, “The Black Cat”. (Neko just loves the idea of a haunted cat ghost story!!) However, director Taboada always manages to make even the most superficially similar plots unique and interesting, so it’ll be a treat to see what he can do with a story filled with ghostly hauntings and a creepy black cat who’s new owners never wanted in the first place.
Our synopsis reads as follows: “When four young women move into an old house left by one woman’s aunt, strange and mysterious things begin to happen. Once the aunt’s beloved cat dies while in their care it soon becomes evident that revenge is something not even death can prevent. Bizarre voices, eerie visions of ghosts, and mysterious noises lead them to discover the darkest powers of evil and a horror and agony beyond terror as,one by one, that revenge claims it’s victims.”
Certainly sounds all Gothic and creepy in that old school 70’s style I remember as a lil’ girl. Will it score as big with yours truly as his other films? More importantly…. can a certain crazy Catgirl convince you that you need to see this old Mexican terror classic as well?
Yep… guess you’ll have to “Read On” and find out for yourself!!
So our film starts pleasantly enough with a gentle old woman, Susana, passing the time with her beloved cat Bequer, as they go about her day-to-day tasks, showing just how much love a lonely old woman can shower on a pet when almost everyone else has forgotten her. Unfortunately… even the most devoted of pets can’t help you dodge the inevitability of your final meeting with the Grim Reaper, as poor Aunt Susana discovers, dying of a heart attack that has her poor kitty scared and hissing with fear just in time for our opening credits to roll.
Next we learn that Susana has outlived almost all those she knew well and has only an estranged niece Ophelia to leave her sumptuous old mansion and it’s contents to in her will. Ahhhh…. and someone to beg to continue the tender care of her beloved Bequer too.
Ophelia’s not such a bad sort either…. a very modern girl, but one who has a soft spot for the poor cat who’s lost her mistress even if her girlfriends are less sympathetic and more opportunistic about their chance to move in to Ophelia’s newly inherited house. It’s the swinging 70’s…. and all the girls are so very modern… very liberated and opinionated… and ever so openly contemptuous of Aunt Susana’s old fashioned furnishings and belongings that fill the old house. The idea that these things were the treasured possessions accumulated by a strong-willed independent woman throughout the entirety of a life far longer and perhaps more cultured and discerning than their own means nothing to them. The very idea that they have to tolerate the continued existence of Bequer and Aunt Susana’s devoted personal maid Sofia irritates them to no end. Ophelia is more understanding and kind, but the attitudes of the others will have you, like Neko and her sweet Carolyn, looking forward to the ghost doing to them what ghosts do best in these sorts of films. If you are thinking your favorite Catgirl didn’t warm to these characters, with the exception of Ophelia… you’d pretty much be right. (Must be the kitten in me recognizing a group of “just not cat people” when I see them….. Hehehe!!)
Although being bitchy and ignorant is hardly a reason to get haunted. Neither is the shabby way you treat the hospitality of the house you’ve been graciously allowed to live in for free. Not even the casual way you think you’ll just wear the treasured wedding dress of your dead aunt like it means nothing. No… for that to happen you have to fail to keep faith with a simple request…. to properly care for someone the deceased loved more than anyone else in the whole world. Poor Bequer…. He soon turns up dead, apparently thoughtlessly locked in the cellars of the house until he starves to death. Yep…. now those girls are in trouble.
From this point forward, the eerie spirit of Aunt Susana starts wandering the house at night… forlornly calling for her poor dead kitty, Bequer and getting ready to get her vengeance, one by one, on those responsible for his death. Now we’re talking!! First up…. cat-hating Aurora… who wanted Bequer gone from the moment her and her little canary first moved in to the house. Sure… Bequer eventually ate the lil’ bird… but that’s sorta what cats do, and bringing a bird to the house was just sorta…. well… dumb. So…. did Aurora lock him in the cellar as revenge? Maybe yes…. but maybe no…. however, either way, she’s number one on Aunt Susana’s “to do” list.
That all begins with Aurora being pestered by the almost nightly onslaught of ghostly sounds of Aunt Susana’s spirit roaming the house calling for Bequer…. and of course the faint sounds of Bequer meowing piteously in return. Nobody else hears any of this except for Sylvia…. and she’s less help than she could be, constantly confirming Aurora’s story and swearing that yes… indeed… Aunt Susana’s restless spirit is among them still. It just makes her sound stupid to the other girls while freaking Aurora out even more. Interestingly enough…. the film never shows you the face of Aunt Susana while she is alive…. you only get to see her face in an old photograph hanging in the salon or once she’s begun her ghostly hauntings…. a neat touch and one that makes her appearances all that much more creepy and disturbing when they do finally happen.
Eventually, the ghost follows her to work… sneaking around the darkness of the Library where she works the night shift alone. It’s a creepy place… and wonderfully filmed, with it’s shadowy narrow aisles and the perforated steel floors between levels that let you almost see what’s going on on the floors above or below you. Not surprisingly… it’s here she is killed by the ghost and left hanging upside down for poor Ophelia to find. Brrrr!
One down…. three to go right? Pretty much that’s the way it goes as the ghost switches her attentions next to Pilar and begins the same series of weird visitations and torments, nearly driving no-nonsense Pilar from the house and back into the arms of her estranged husband, Roberto. He’s a lusty sort… having been two-timing Pilar with a mistress for some period before the film, but now wanting her back just when she’s at her weakest and most vulnerable. She almost falls for it, but even the ghostly threat isn’t enough to make her take him back without serious thought beforehand. That hesitation costs her her life… and one drunken encounter on the darkened stairs with Aunt Susana results in a deadly fall to her death before she can make her exit from the house and back to her old life with her hubby.
Finally faithful maid Sylvia can’t stand anymore and leaves after begging Ophelia to believe that her Aunt still walks the house…. abandoning Ophelia and Marta to face the ghost alone. Of of all the girls… perhaps Marta was the most appealing and like-able and definitely easiest to sympathize with as a character, outside of Ophelia herself, so it isn’t surprising when in a fatalistic moment of despair, she has a moment of conscience and spills the beans about the real story behind the death of Bequer. Not surprisingly… it wasn’t an accident.
Nope. Remember Aurora’s little canary? The one Bequer kind of devoured like a tasty tidbit? Well… she didn’t exactly react at all well to that idea. In fact, she sorta went all ape-shit crazy, hunted Bequer down, and attacked him with a fireplace poker. He leaped on her face to fight back and the rest of the girls all jumped in and before you know it, they’d pounded the stuffing out of the poor lil’ kitty. Ophelia was gone that day, and worried she wouldn’t like hearing what they’d all done, they cooked up the “locked in the cellar” story to hide their actions. Who believed Aunt Susana’s ghost would come back from beyond the grave for revenge? Not them…..
Marta knows… in her heart… that she’s next. By now she understands that nothing can stop Aunt Susana from evening the score. Ophelia tries to comfort her… tell her that her fiance Pedro can take them away from the mansion, but Marta reminds her that Aurora died at work…. well away from the house. Weirdly enough…. even though by now they both accept the reality of the ghost, no effort is made to find a supernatural solution to the problem. No priest is called in… no exorcists… no “I See Dead People” mediums or other stock characters usually found by this point in one of these films. Instead, heroic Pedro is assumed to be “their only hope”. Kinda dumb, but maybe these ladies are just too “modern” to completely accept the trappings of the Spiritual. Too bad for Marta. Pedro arrives… but while Ophelia is trying to let him in, it’s curtains for Marta, stabbed to death by Aunt Susana’s ghost with her favorite knitting needles.
Having finally finished off those responsible, our film ends with the tearful escape from the house by Ophelia and Pedro. I guess she gets a pass because of her sympathies for lil’ Bequer… well… that and the fact that she really didn’t have anything to do with his nasty death. Goody for her. Now let’s hope she can explain all these tragic deaths to the authorities……
So all in all, I really liked this classic little story. It’s a neat little slice of vintage 70’s style storytelling with a simple easy to understand plot just the way I remember from all those films from that time. Drawing inspiration from quite a few sources… Poe’s “The Black Cat” most definitely… it none the less manages to do so in a way that blends those ideas together into a mostly coherent whole. There are lots of classic scenes of girls roaming the dark and scary house in nightgowns…. ominously brief glimpses of Aunt Susana as she creeps about in search of her lost kitty…. all the great bits you’d expect in an old time horror film and all gloriously beautiful in technicolor…. Ahhhh, they just don’t make them like this anymore. The South American Region 1&4 release for this one is also without subtitles just like all the others I’ve found, but luckily again the Fan-sub selection is good and excellent English ones requiring very little tweaking were easily gotten a hold of. I can give “Mas Negro Que La Noche” a well recommended 4 “Meows” out of 5 and only hope that like his other films, this one finally gets the wider exposure and release that it deserves, landing on a good English subtitled all region DVD as soon as possible. If you, Gentle Visitor, get the chance to see it… by all means give it a try, you certainly won’t be disappointed if classic old ghost stories are your thing.
There’s a Trailer… Yay!! And here it is for your enjoyment!