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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Cat & The Canary (1978/Uncut/First Run)

The Cat & The Canary (1978)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Film: C+



First Run Features has reissued the 1978 Radley Metzger remake of the oft-filmed 1920 play The Cat & The Canary, a film that the old school sexploitationmeister though could be the beginning of a new cycle of films in his career.  It did not do well, despite a great cast, cameraman and classic story.  Part of the reason is that it just never builds suspense and like Metzger’s sex films, does not know how to go all the way.


The first film version was the classic 1927 masterpiece of shadows, light and memorable images by Paul Leni, issued twice on DVD already.  Since the previous two sound film versions were not big hits, there was hope that one could finally work, but the third time was not the charm here.  When relatives of a deceased millionaire (Wilfrid Hyde-White, hilarious and one of the highlights of the film) are gathered at his mansion in 1934, they get a sound-sync film insulting them and explaining his will.  His niece (Carol Lynley from The Night Stalker) becomes the sole recipient, unless she can be proven legally insane.  With the knowledge a serial killer is on the loose, those left out might just want her caged.


The additional cats, I mean cast, includes Honor Blackman (Goldfinger, TV’s The Avengers) Wendy Hiller, Olivia Hussey, Michael Callan and Edward Fox.  Coming a few years after the phenomenal success of Murder On The Orient Express (1974, reviewed elsewhere on this site) means that expectations were high for this.  Like the actual Agatha Christie adaptation Death On The Nile the same year, it was a disappointment, though that film worked a bit better.  We do not learn enough about the characters and the all-star cast feels too much like they are just there to be lit well, but they make this at least a pleasant experience, so it does not drag like it would otherwise.  This one is worth a look for genre-fans at least.


The letterboxed 1.85 X 1 image is not bad for its age, but is likely a recycling of the original materials used for the Image Entertainment DVD a few years before.  This was shot by the great cameraman Alex Thompson, B.S.C., and looks good for the kind of production it is.  This however is not up to his best work, which includes Alien 3 (1992, finally in a better version on DVD reviewed elsewhere on this site), Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Excalibur, Nicolas Roeg’s Eureka, Ridley Scott’s Legend, The Krays, and Michael Cimino’s Year Of The Dragon among others.   The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is adequate, but nothing spectacular.  Everyone is well spoken, so that helps.  There are more extras than usual.  Besides four trailers for three of Metzger’s sexploitation flicks due on DVD and the newer thriller Suspended Animation (reviewed elsewhere on this site), you get a trailer for this film and a nice stills and text section on the previous versions of the film and the play in came from.  This includes poster art, which is a plus.  That too might be reason enough for fans to get this DVD, but the film will always seem like a missed opportunity just the same.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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