The Cat and the Canary (1979)
By: David Michael Brown on September 6, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.77:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 102 minutes
The Movie
Director:Radley Metzger
Starring: Edward Fox, Olivia Hussey, Wilfred Hyde White, Honor Blackman
Screenplay: Radley Metzger
Country: UK
"Good Morning Leeches!" So opens Cyrus West's filmed last will and testament. A group of relatives, hangers on and money grabbers have gathered together in a creepy mansion to see whom West has left his substantial fortune to. They are soon shocked to discover that only one of them will inherit his wealth but if they do not survive until the morning then a second will be read. Cue much nervous twitching, sinister glances and sweaty brows as they are all forced to spend the evening together. A maniac from a nearby asylum is then thrown into the mix as we discover who has murder on their minds. Will the lunatic kill them all before they kill each other?

Based on the John Willard play, this is the third filmed version of The Cat and The Canary. Whereas the 1939 version starring Bob Hope played it for laughs there is very little to smile about here. The film barely generates more thrills than an episode of Murder She Wrote. It's an Agatha Christie style mystery but you don't really care who survives or whodunit.

The films stellar cast all seem to be slumming it here, most were already household names for bigger and better things; Honor Blackman had already revolutionised television with her role as Cathy Gale opposite Partrick Magee's John Steed in The Avengers and been more than a handful for James Bond as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Olivia Hussey had brought a tear to many an eye in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (although terroraustralis readers obviously view her performance in Turkey Shoot in much higher esteem) and Edward Fox had shot his way through Day of the Jackall. What attracted these high calibre performers to The Cat and The Canary who knows? Producer Richard Gordon had previously made Horror Hospital and Tower of Evil and director Radley Metzger was better known for his sleazier efforts such as Dirty Girls, Camille 2000 and The Lickerish Quartet. It must have been the chance to work together that drew the cast to the project.

The film desperately tries to crank up the tension but it's murder scenes lack any imagination in their execution and the maniac just isn't threatening enough. It looks more like a made for television movie than a cinematic experience and overall is a bit dull.
The picture is adequate; it suffers from a bit of grain in places but as most of the action takes place in the starkly lit mansion it doesn't affect one's enjoyment. Visuals do not seem to be Metzger's forte and everything here looks a bit flat and dull.
The two track stereo track is good. The score is a bit ponderous and overbearing but sounds clear and sharp.
Extra Features
An amusing trailer and a stills collection make up the extras.
The Verdict
The film, despite its many failings, still manages to be relatively entertaining in a quiet Sunday afternoon movie kind of way. Fans of British cinema of the Seventies will find something to enjoy here. The cast, in particular Wilfred Hyde White, are enjoyable to watch but they are thwarted in their attempts to make a decent film by an average script and inept attempts at direction.
Movie Score
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