The Cat and the Canary (Special Edition)
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In this frightening all-time cinematic classic and blueprint for all haunted house thrillers, the reading of a will at the estate of old Cyrus West coincides with the arrival of a clawed killer in black ready to pick off the greedy relatives. Utilizing great technical craftsmanship, this witty, suspenseful and stylish treat weaves a stark vision of terror that's just as thrilling today! Digitally Remastered Special Edition with spectacular image quality.
- Newly revised and re-recorded score by Erich Beheim
- Newly composed score by Franklin Stover featuring the scary short "Haunted Spooks"
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Twenty years after the death of wealthy Cyrus West his relatives are summoned to his old mansion for the reading of his will. Hovering in charge of the mansion is a creepy housekeeper, rather of the ilk of Mrs. Danvers. She can suddenly cross her eyes until she is looking at her nose, certainly an original touch!Several nieces and nephews gather to hear from Cyrus's lawyer who will get the fortune. The youngest and prettiest niece, Annabelle, played by Laura la Plante, is the beneficiary but the group, locked in the old house overnight, is stalked by a mystery figure and an insane asylum escapee, known as "The Cat," finds refuge in the mansion and hides there. There is a lot of thrashing around and screaming as you can imagine.
The film is a deep sepia in tone but whether that was the intended color rather than a result of age, I don't know.The movie isn't really scary and is often funny either intentionally or otherwise but it is interesting as the corner stone of film horror. There are many artistically effective touches like the snarling black cats at the beginning, and spooky flashlight sequences. As the clock strikes midnight, when the will is read, you see the inside mechanism of the clock with the hammers striking eerily. Chairs coved with protective padding look exactly like tombstones. Not "Psycho" or "The Shining" that's for sure, the film is nevertheless interesting and fun and definitely a role model for what was to come in horror-comedy films.
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.
If you've never seen a silent film before then this is a good place to start. If you're an old hand like me then you'll rejoice at just how good the restoration is. It's a pity all silent releases can't be like this one but then when it comes to any of the arts in this country, most of the money available goes somewhere else and no project is better than it's bottom line. Too bad.
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