Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

THE CAT AND THE CANARY


THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1978). Written and directed by Radley Metzger. Director's Cut.

This is a disappointing color remake of the old scary silent movies of the same name. In 1934 at Briarcliffe Manor, the heirs are gathered together to find out which of them will get all of the late Cyrus West's money -- from Cyrus West (Wilfrid Hyde White) himself speaking on a film he made before his death. [An interesting aspect of this sequence is that the housekeeper is not only serving dinner to the heirs as they look at West's will-movie, but is also seen serving West in the movie-within-a movie, passing behind the screen in real time and showing up on the screen a second later. The only problem is that the actress doesn't look any younger, even though the will-film was made years before]. An added complication arrives in the form of a doctor (Edward Fox) who tells them all that a madman who thinks of himself as a cat and likes to tear at flesh has escaped from his asylum and they are all in danger. The main problem with this movie, which has an interesting cast, is that it has absolutely no atmosphere and is greatly over-lit. Talky and slow, it gets better in the second half when the Cat makes his appearance, and there's a good, suspenseful climax, but it may be too little too late. Wendy Hiller comes off best as West's lawyer, although Fox, Honor Blackman, Daniel Massey and Peter McEnery are also swell. Michael Callan and Carol Lynley are the nominal hero and heroine. and Beatrix Lehmann is the aged housekeeper. Olivia Hussey of Romeo and Juliet appears as another one of the heirs. Metzger was better known for his erotic features, and was the editor for The Flesh Eaters, which was way more entertaining than this borderline campy movie which never realizes its full potential.

Verdict: At least the hidden passageways are interesting. **.

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