THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1978) Reviews and overview

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‘… the classic tale of mystery and suspense!’
The Cat and the Canary is a 1978 murder mystery thriller film written and directed by American erotic filmmaker Radley Metzger (The Lickerish Quartet; The Opening of Misty Beethoven; Barbara Broadcast) and produced by Richard Gordon (Tower of Evil; Horror Hospital; Inseminoid).

The film is a loose adaptation of John Willard’s 1922 black comedy play of the same name which had previously been filmed several times, the first being a 1927 silent horror film version.

On 3 April 2017, the film was released on DVD in the UK by Screenbound Pictures.


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Carol Lynley Honor Blackman 1978 Cat and the Canary

The movie stars Honor Blackman (Fright; Tale of the Mummy; Cockneys vs. Zombies), Michael Callan (Swamp Thing [TV series]; Leprechaun 3), Edward Fox (The Frozen Dead), Wendy Hiller (The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb), Olivia Hussey (Black ChristmasIt), Wilfred Hyde-White (Chamber of Horrors; Fear No Evil; Ritual of Evil), Beatrix Lehmann, Carol Lynley (The Shuttered Room; Beware! The BlobDark Tower), Daniel Massey (Shadows of Fear; Vault of Horror), Peter McEnery (Tales That Witness Madness; Hammer House of HorrorWitchcraft [TV series]).

Cat and the Canary 1978 Carol Lynley

On the 20th anniversary of his death, the remaining relatives of Cyrus West (Wilfred Hyde-White) are called to Elsinore mansion to view the filmed reading of his will. Cyrus reveals that Annabelle West (Carol Lynley) is to be the sole beneficiary, stipulating that in order to claim the inheritance she must spend the night in the house with the rest of the family and be deemed sane the next morning.

Cat and the Canary Wilfred Hyde-White 1978

A doctor from the asylum up the road, Dr Hendricks (Edward Fox), arrives and informs the guests that a homicidal maniac, has escaped and is hiding out in the area. With a history of insanity in the family, a mansion replete with secret rooms and corridors and “The Cat” murderer on the loose, the night becomes a tale of gruesome murders, mystery and suspense…

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“The jokes are lame, the characterization often questionable and mostly bad, the intentionally hokey acting aggravating, the plot development inconsistent and, worst of all, the whole film is as innately homophobic and misogynistic as it is thoroughly boring.” A Wasted Life

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“Metzger elicits good performances from his cast, considering the silly story and purple prose that passes for dialogue.” Steve Evans, DVD Verdict

Die Katze und der Kanarienvogel

“It’s obvious from the start whodunit; so the cast are much given to eye-rolling and chilling smiles, either to throw off the scent or disguise their embarrassment, for this adaptation is so turgidly faithful one expects that the entire lot (mauled bodies and all) to take a bow as the credits roll.” Fiona Ferguson, The Time Out Film Guide

“The over-familiar plot looks both contrived and simplistic when compared with the labyrinthine plots that came into fashion with Hammer’s psycho thriller in the sixties and the post-Argento giallo crime movies in the seventies…” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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Choice dialogue:
Cyrus West: “Good evening, leeches. Take your places. As you know, I am Cyrus West. Now first of all, let me tell you, you’re all a bunch of bastards. I know, I know the people you came from. They’re all a bunch of bastards. Yes, your fathers, your mothers, your uncles, your aunts, your nephews, your nieces, your sons, your daughters, not to mention a cartload of cousins. All a bunch of bastards except, of course, Mew Mew, and perhaps one or two others.”
Paul Jones: “Wanna hear my new song? I wrote it while I was unconscious. It’s called ‘Kiss My Heiress’.”
“Weapons can be as dangerous as maniacs.”


Cast and characters:
Honor Blackman … Susan Sillsby
Michael Callan … Paul Jones
Edward Fox … Hendricks
Wendy Hiller … Allison Crosby
Olivia Hussey … Cicily Young
Beatrix Lehmann … Mrs Pleasant
Carol Lynley … Annabelle West
Daniel Massey … Doctor Harry Blythe
Peter McEnery … Charlie Wilder
Wilfrid Hyde-White … Cyrus West

Filming locations:
Pyford Court, Ripley, Surrey, England (also in Tales from the Crypt; The Omen)

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