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The Cat and the Canary (1927) (The Photoplay Restoration)

79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

German horror stylist Paul Leni (Variety) brings his expressionist flourishes to this compendium of haunted clich+ªs, creating one of the most stylish horror movie spoofs ever, a delightful mix of the gothic and the goofy. A greedy bunch of gargoyle-looking relatives (and a pair of young innocents) gather for the reading of a rich uncle's will, which demands that they spend the night in the creepy old mansion. Leni puts them through a fun house of frights: As if secret panels, clutching hands, and a stopped clock that mysteriously comes to life weren't enough, an escaped lunatic from a nearby asylum who rends his victims with catlike claws may have infiltrated the house. Silent movie sweetheart Laura La- Plante is the canary of the title, a lovely would-be heiress who becomes the target of plotting relatives, but it's the rogues gallery of suspects that adds the color and comic relief. Leni kicks the film off with a delirious scene of an infirm old man surrounded by gigantic bottles of medicine and menaced by a snarling, spitting. gargantuan cat. The rest of the film is played in lower key, for laughs as much as chills, but it never loses its moody ambiance, highlighted by elegant camerawork and looming shadows. This classic has been remade three times, most famously by Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in 1939, but never as well. The hilarious Harold Lloyd short Haunted Spooks has been included as a DVD bonus.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Laura La Plante
  • Directors: Paul Leni
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Silent
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • DVD Release Date: October 9, 2007
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000V3IX82
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,150 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 6, 2005
Format: DVD
The 1922 play THE CAT AND THE CANARY was so popular that it made the fortune of author John Willard, who lived to see it filmed no fewer than three times before his death in 1942. Even today the story remains a classic of its kind, inspiring a host of films that mix comedy, mystery, and horror--not to mention still more that focus on suspicious doings in old, dark houses. When questioned by author Gavin Lambert, director James Whale very specifically indicated that the 1927 film version, along with the 1928 THE LAST WARNING, influenced his own work in such films as FRANKENSTEIN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE.

Both THE CAT AND THE CANARY and THE LAST WARNING were created for Universal by director Paul Leni. But while THE LAST WARNING is not presently available to the home market, THE CAT AND THE CANARY most certainly is, and even some eighty years later is possible to see what all the fuss was about. In term of cinematography, CAT is a remarkably imaginative film, using a series of over-lapping images, close-ups, and dissolves to astonishing effect. In a visual sense it is easily one of the most stylish films of the silent era.

The plot is a classic of its kind. Like the original Willard play, the film's story mixes a host of already-cliched ideas with several then-new ones. Today, of course, it can be a bit difficult to them apart! But even so it remains a fair amount of fun. An eccentric millionaire has been hounded to death by his greedy relatives--and when he dies he leaves behind a will that imposes a twenty year waiting period between his death and delivery of his estate to his heir. But who will the heir be? The candidates assemble to hear the will at midnight... and no sooner is the heir named than strange doings are afoot.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on October 9, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The close of 2007 is an exciting time for silent film enthusiasts. A number of restorations of big name silent titles are still scheduled for release by year's end including BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, NOSFERATU, THE IRON HORSE, and THE JAZZ SINGER (which despite its reputation is more silent than talkie). So far PANDORA'S BOX, TRUE HEART SUSIE, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and THE CAT AND THE CANARY have appeared with the last named being the winner in the restoration sweepstakes so far.

Considering previous versions of the film, this is the best looking one I've seen since METROPOLIS in 2003. The picture quality is outstanding (thanks to 35mm nitrate source materials), the film is complete (even the original Universal biplane opening is there), and the new score by Neil Brand fits the visuals perfectly (something which has not been the case in a few recent releases). Britain's Photoplay Productions remains the premiere restoration outfit in the business today not only because of the knowledge of people like co-founder Kevin Brownlow and the cooperation between various archive sources but also because of the additional funds they seem to have available to do the job right. We'll see how the others look once they're released but they'll be hard pressed to beat this one.

For those who have never seen it, THE CAT AND THE CANARY is the prototype old dark house film mixing murder, mirth, and mayhem with outstanding visuals and wonderful performances from all concerned. This new version allows you to see the film as audiences in 1927 must have seen it and gives you the opportunity of experiencing a silent film first hand. The print isn't perfect but it's darn close and as I mentioned earlier Neil Brand's score is an absolute delight.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1999
Format: DVD
Okay, so this is one of those ancient SILENT flicks, made back in that prehistoric year of l927. But I can promise you, anyone watching The Cat and the Canary today will not be bored. You see the amazing dexterity of the camera (Gilbert Warrenton was the camera man), the inspired direction and production (Paul Leni), the wonderful cast of long-gone Hollywood stars (Laura La Plante, the Sandra Bullock of her day)and Creighton Hale and gorgeous Gertrude Astor (she was considered the best-dressed star of the Roaring Twenties). This movie is so old that it now fascinates. You see the delightful and creative use of titles (some of them streaming down from the top of the screen to the bottom like a ghost)and wish that EVERY silent movie had been preserved and available today for movie addicts. "The Cat and the Canary" was considered one of the great lost masterpieces until someone actually discovered it in a salt mine in Montana (there must be something about salt mines, Parisian attics, Soviet vaults, since so many of our lost movie treasures are usually found in such esoteric locales). This wonderfully fun, zany and sometimes chilling masterpiece is head and shoulders over yet another long-lost masterpiece, the primitive talkie "The Bat Whispers" (1930), also discovered in some warehouse in Russia. The photography on this chiller was also spell-binding but the story is so dated and badly conceived that only the most die-hard early talkie junkie can endure it (I survived it but talk about being dissapointed). Watch "The Cat and the Canary" (1927) and be whirled back more than 65 years in Hollywood's Jazz Age to see what magic was pouring out of the studios. IN many ways, they were a vast improvement over l999's idea of hits: Armageddon, Godzilla (please God, let them sink into oblivion).
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The Cat and the Canary (1927) (The Photoplay Restoration)
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