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The Black Cat (Theatrical Trailer)

Hjalmar Poelzig is one of Austria's greatest architects, and the leader of a devil-worshipping cult. During World War I, he commanded a fort that he sold to the Russians. He sneaked away in the night and left the soldiers to die, including Dr. Vitus Werdegast.

Though Werdegast was taken prisoner, Poelzig told the doctor's wife that he'd been killed, as a means to seduce and marry her (for he had, according to Werdegast, wanted Karen from the first moment he saw her). Poelzig would eventually return to the site of the fort he'd sold out, and built his own house on its ruins.

Years later, Werdegast arrived at Poelzig's home, along with Peter and Joan Alison, who took shelter from a violent storm. When Werdegast confronts Poelzig and demands to know where his family is, Poelzig calls him mad. But eventually, he shows the doctor his wife's body, preserved in a glass case (one of many women Poelzig has preserved). Poelzig insists he loved her and calls her beautiful, but Werdegast is horrified.

Poelzig tells Werdegast his daughter, also named Karen, is dead too, but she is revealed to be alive and is Poelzig's new wife. He tells her not to leave her room, insisting she is the center of his life and that no one will steal her away from him. However, Karen disobeys him and meets Joan. When Joan tells Karen her father is alive and has come for her, Poelzig finds her and orders her out. Though not shown, it is implied Poelzig rapes her.

Poelzig decides to sacrifice Joan during a devil-worship ceremony, but Werdegast bides his time to fight for her freedom, while Peter is held prisoner. They play a physical and metaphorical game of chess. Werdegast saves Joan and goes to find his daughter when Joan tells him she's alive. He finds her dead, and Poelzig attacks him. Werdegast however overcomes him and ties him up, before skinning him alive. The Alisons escape, and Werdegast, mortally wounded, throws a switch to ignite dynamite that will blow up the house, taunting Hjalmar as he does so.