Inside The 1961 Feline Auditions For The Tales Of Terror Cat

" ... A remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree."

These are the words of the late great Edgar Allan Poe, an American literary icon known for his creepy, gothic tales (via Poe Stories). His poems and stories are revered for their psychological appeal, making the reader question those bumps in the night, scratches at the window, and the "rapping" or "tapping" heard at one's "chamber door" (via Good Reads). Poe was a wordsmith whose eccentric perspective on life rang through in his writing and with his descriptions of every day things, as seen in the quote above, where he details a simple black cat.

Black cats are shrouded with superstition from their mythical association with witches and demons to their affiliation with bad luck. In Poe's world, they are known to be abused, murdered, and buried shallowly in cellar walls (via Poe Stories). However, this same victim  in Poe's piece, "The Black Cat," sought justice in death, through phantom-like meows from beyond the grave, which led the story's police to find the crime scene (also included was the dead body of the character's wife. But considering the cat is who the story is named after, we'll focus more on that star here). Now after the bad rap black cats get and all the atrocious things done to them in fiction and in real-life, it would be no surprise if dozens of them lined up to be treated like celebrities. And that's exactly what they did.

Lights, Cameowra, Action

Well, maybe the cats — 152 in total — didn't willingly line up for a chance at stardom, but their owners forced them into it (via Life). The 1843 tale of "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe followed the gruesome tale of a black cat named Pluto who was abused, murdered, and buried in a wall, only to be found by police beckoned who were there by Pluto's ghostly call (via Poe Stories). In 1962, the same story was adapted into a horror short-story film compilation entitle, "Tales of Terror" directed by Roger Coleman (via Rare Historical Photos). The film starred Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, but more importantly, a black cat.

The film went on to have very little critical acclaim with a current score of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 63% audience score, but prior to its filming, cat owners came out in droves to help their furry friends catch their first big break (via Rotten Tomatoes). The year before its release, countless cats with various black color patterns showed up for their chance. Only purely black cats were accepted, while many with white markings were sent home disappointed (we're sure they were fine once they were given a dish of food).

The Cat's ... in the bag?

Unbeknownst to those auditioning, a well-known actor cat already had the role in the bag, but seven lucky understudies were picked that day based on their judgmental glares and black coats (via Life). To help decide, movie stars Joyce Jameson, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre played with the contestants (via Rare Historical Photos). The same actors went on to tell the story of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" in this adaptation, where the unnamed narrator's wife has a black cat that he grows to hate.

Upon going to a wine tasting event, the narrator meets the world's most famous wine taster, invites him to his home, and the wine taster is then found in a compromising condition with the narrator's wife. The main character murders them all, including the cat that he detests, and buries them in the wall of the house, only for the cat's unearthly meows to alert police of the crime (similar to Poe's original tale but not quite the same). Despite the film's lower ratings and lack of relevance in modern film history, one image remains plenty historical: An army of black cats lining a sidewalk, waiting patiently for their turn at a chance in the limelight.