For a movie that has multiple versions, I’m quite surprised I’ve never seen The Cat and the Canary before. I ended up watching the 1939 version with Bob Hope and I have to say, I was pleasantly delighted to witness a murder mystery that effectively kept everything mysterious until the very end. I didn’t read to many complaints online about the movie, but I have read complaints about it not having a good DVD release, but I like to think that the newest Region 2 release from Fabulous Films has put that issue to rest, as I had no problems with the quality of the movie on this disc. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this quick review and see why you should check out this movie today…
DISCS: 1 RUN-TIME: 74 min ASPECT RATIO: 1.37:1 RESOLUTION: 480i AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
SUBTITLES: N/A REGION: 2 RATING: PG PRODUCTION DATE: 1939 RELEASE DATE: Aug 3, 2015
Ten years have passed since the death of millionaire Cyrus Norman, his attorney gathers his six remaining relatives in his old mansion in the swamps of Louisiana to read the will. As the local prison guard warns that “The Cat” a homicidal maniac has escaped and could appear at any minute. a night filled with murders, mysteries and intrigue develops.
The Bob Hope version of The Cat and the Canary is actually a remake of the 1927 silent film of the same name, which starred Laura La Plante, and is in the end based on a 1922 play by John Willard (thank you Wikipedia for that info.) As I’ve already mentioned, I never saw any of the other versions or was around to see the play in 1922, so I don’t know much about the rest of them, but I can tell you about this version, which is a horror film with a good helping of comic relief provided by the ever hilarious Bob Hope.
Ten years after the death of Cyrus Norman, his survivors are gathering at his mansion to hear a reading of the will and find out who is going to inherit the entire estate. The will is broken up into two different envelopes. The first envelope names the successor, but if that person is deemed either insane or dead in a months time, the estate will be transferred over to the name in the second envelope. One of the people, Fred Blythe (John Beal,) hits it right on the nose when he says this is basically a recipe for murder. The lawyer doesn’t seem to care much so that little nugget of info is dismissed. After the successor is named, the group have to spend the night in the mansion, whilst an insane asylum victim, known as The Cat, just so happens to conveniently escape and is found to be nearby. Will the heir to the fortune survive the night or will they be driven insane, or worse, murdered! Don’t worry, the every goofy Bob Hope, who pointedly reminds us that this scenario is a lot like the plays he acts in, will be around to chicken out at every turn.
First and foremost, The Cat and the Canary brilliantly played out its mystery and not once was it ever predictable. I actually sat through the quick 74-minute runtime, not knowing who the murderer was. I say bravo for that and when it was revealed who it was, I could easily go along with it. Once you throw in the comedy of Bob Hope, you have a film that is pure gold on your hands. I do have one question, though. Hope’s character Wally Campbell falls in love with the leading lady Joyce Norman, played by the lovely Paulette Goddard. However, aren’t all these people related in some way? I never did wrap my brain around that bit of the story. I’m sure I just didn’t clue into a small piece of the backstory or something. Yeah, that’s probably it… I hope.
Complaints are aplenty on the internet for this movie to be released on DVD with a nice transfer, and after seeing the Fabulous Films release, I think we can agree the movie is looking pretty nice. There are hardly any dirt and scratches present in the flick and when you check out the included trailer, you can see how much the movie has been cleaned up. Other included extras along with the trailer are galleries for the posters, press cards and stills from the film that all run about a minute or less.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
The Cat and the Canary was a funny movie with plenty of laughs to go along with the murder mystery. I know I keep saying this, but I still can’t get over how well hidden the murderer was, and whenever a movie can effectively do that, I applaud it big time. The Fabulous Films DVD release is looking wonderful, so I think it’s a no brainer to pick this one up for all you film lovers out there.