Friday, April 15, 2016

The Cat And The Canary!

The Cat and the Canary has been on my wanna-see list for quite some time, but for whatever reason I never got around to ordering a copy nor finding it online. The other day I found a cheap copy of the Alpha Video dvd presentation of this 1927 classic movie and gave it a tumble. The movie was at once exactly what I thought it was and not what I imagined it was. The film is famously one of Universal's early horror successes before the advent of sound and the utter domination of the Dracula and Frankentstein franchises.

It's a haunted house story, about a bunch of assembled distant relatives who are gathered together in an exceedingly spooky mansion to get the results of a will left twenty years before by the arguably mad millionaire who once owned the estate they all wish to get a piece of. There is much ballyhoo and we get a curious and sometimes funny gaggle of folks who are shocked and appalled and bemused by the results of the will.

But it's required that the one who is named as inheritor must be deemed sane by an independent party later the same night that the will is presented. Between the time of that reading and the arrival of the adjudicator, the shenanigans are fired off plenty and much is done to make the lucky heir seem quite bonkers.

The actual mystery alas is not all that strong. Not unlike the classic Scooby Doo cartoon which follows closely in the gaslighting tradition of this movie, it's not so much who dunnit as what are they gonna do next that keeps the movie kicking along.

That and some exceedingly stylish film-making by director Paul Leni, a German expressionist brought to the United States by Carl Laemle for the express purpose of making a fancy fright picture with wit and panache. The Cat and the Canary surely qualifies.

The version I watched featured a surprisingly subtle score which added much to the enjoyment of this classic flick. Highly recommended for all horror fans.

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  1. The Bob Hope version is a corker as well, I thought. And if you've never seen him in 'The Ghost Breakers', then, boy - are you in for a treat!

    1. Now that I've seen the original I'd be very interested in seeing variations on the theme. Bob Hope seemed an odd choice before I got the original and saw the humor in it, he's one of those guys who dominates a screen.

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