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The Cat and the Canary (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000225488
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 26/5/2024 19:18
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    Review for The Cat and the Canary

    6 / 10


    I feel that I’m being haunted by this horror movie. Although it could be more accurate to say that Eureka Entertainment are being haunted, either that or they are obsessed. A few years ago, I got an unsolicited check disc for The Old Dark House, a 1932 James Whale movie inspired by The Cat and the Canary, where a group of people wind up spending a night in a creepy mansion and run into all manner of spookiness. Then a couple of years ago I requested a Bob Hope double bill from Eureka, in the mood for a little light comedy. But they turned out to be comedy horrors, including 1939’s The Cat and the Canary, where a group of people spend a chilling night in a creepy mansion. This is obviously not the film that inspired James Whale, unless he had a time machine; that was the original Cat and the Canary, a 1922 stage play that inspired this 1927 feature film that I have now got as another unsolicited check disc from Eureka Entertainment. I wonder how many versions of this story are out there, and if we’ll have to create a new specific genre for it on the site. Here I go again...

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    Twenty years after the death of Cyrus West, his surviving relatives gather at his old mansion to hear the reading of the will. Almost everyone is disappointed though, when the lawyer reveals that the sole beneficiary is his niece, Annabelle, but only on the condition that she can prove her sanity. But the safe that contained the will for twenty years was broken into just before the reading, a murderous maniac has escaped from a local asylum, and it isn’t long before the lawyer is found dead in the mansion. Annabelle’s sanity is about to tested to breaking point.

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    The Disc

    From 1927, The Cat and the Canary is a silent feature that is presented here on this disc in 4:3 Academy Ratio pillarboxed 1080p, with Robert Israel’s score presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround audio. Signs of age are apparent, scratches, the odd fleck, maybe a skipped frame here or there, but the 4k restoration is excellent. The image is clear and sharp, detail levels are good, and different tints have been applied to designate the various locations in the story. I was impressed by the technical achievements in the cinematography, some visual effects work giving some scenes an Impressionist feel, dramatic camera moves at a time when I thought frames in film were strictly static, and animation applied to the intertitles to emphasise character emotion. The audio is excellent, clear and warm, with no distortion or dropouts, understandable given that the score for the film is a new recording based on the original 1927 score sheets.

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    The disc boots to a static menu and you’ll find the following extras...

    Audio commentary with Kim Newman & Robert Jones
    Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons & Jonathan Rigby
    Mysterious Mean Dark Corners (29:02)
    Pamela Hutchinson Interview (13:04)
    Phuong Le Interview (9:11)
    A Very Eccentric Man (3:11)
    Yeah, A Cat! (2:15)
    Lucky Strike (0:53)

    The first run release (2000 copies) of the film will come with special edition packaging and a 32 page booklet with writing on the film from Imogen Sara Smith, Craig Ian Mann and Richard Combs.

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    Just in case I haven’t mentioned it already, Horror is not my genre of choice, and I’m not going to have the same appreciation of this film as someone better acquainted with its style and tropes. Now having said all that, I had assumed that the 1939 Cat and the Canary was a horror comedy that sent up the original film and stage play, making the most of the talents of Bob Hope. It turns out that The Cat and the Canary was a horror comedy right from the beginning, although this silent film doesn’t quite have the same snappy verbal wit, and it obviously lacks those meta aspects that I was taken with, within the 1939 film. It plays its horror comedy at face value, with exaggerated characters and occasional goofball moments delivering the comedy, while the staging, suspense and creepy direction does for the horror.

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    I really enjoyed the 1939 film as a horror comedy, but to me, this version from 1927 felt more like two films slammed together, and with Paul Jones, the cowardly hero protagonist (the character Bob Hope played in the 1939 film) looking as if he’s escaped from a Harold Lloyd movie; wholly out of place in the shadowy creepiness that unfolds in the mansion. For me he stood out like a sore thumb, and detracted from the story instead of contributing to it.

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    This then is one of those films that I’ll watch to appreciate intellectually, rather than one to invest in emotionally and enjoy viscerally. This Cat and the Canary deserves its place in cinema history for its influence on the films that would follow, especially the cycle of Universal Horror films that were about to come in the thirties and forties. For a student of cinema, this is a film worthy of a place in any collection. But it would be so much better if you are a fan of this particular genre.

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    Eureka Entertainment have come up trumps once more with the restoration and presentation of the film, and have added plenty of useful extra features. You can buy The Cat and the Canary direct from Eureka Entertainment, and from mainstream retailers, although make sure you’re getting the right one... or just get both.

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