Rich old Cyrus West's relatives are waiting for him to die so they can inherit. But he stipulates that his will be read 20 years after his death. On the appointed day his expectant heirs arrive at his brooding mansion. The will is read and it turns out that Annabelle West, the only heir with his name left, inherits, if she is deemed sane. If she isn't, the money and some diamonds go to someone else, whose name is in a sealed envelope. Before he can reveal the identity of her successor to Annabelle, Mr. Crosby, the lawyer, disappears. The first in a series of mysterious events, some of which point to Annabelle in fact being unstable. Written by
Writer/director Robert F. Hill not only wrote the adaptation for this film but also served as a sort of assistant/associate director for Paul Leni. Leni, a German, didn't speak much English, and Hill spoke German, so he acted as a liaison between Leni and the cast and crew. See more »
As Tully Marshall's dead body falls to the floor, the actor can be clearly seen extending his hands to break the fall. See more »
Like the deadly game between THE CAT AND THE CANARY, so a young heiress feels trapped in a very peculiar haunted house, surrounded by lurking, unseen evils...
This is a dandy old creeper of a silent horror film, with just the right mix of menace & mirth to please the uncritical viewer. Universal gave the movie very fine production values, which extend not only to the atmospheric sets, but also to the humorously spooky title cards scattered throughout.
This film is really story driven, rather than dominated by the personalities of its stars. However, mention should be made of very entertaining performances by Tully Marshall as the scabrous old lawyer, Flora Finch as a terrified auntie, and Lucien Littlefield as an exceedingly strange doctor. Laura La Plante as the lovely, frightened heiress & Creighton Hale as her nervous, scatterbrained cousin give a light touch to the romantic subplot.
THE CAT AND THE CANARY is a choice example from the Old Dark House genre of spook tales. All the elements are here: distressed young ladies, a crumbling mansion, a housekeeper of baleful aspect, a lawyer who knows too much, an escaped lunatic, stalking ghosts or monsters, missing wills, meetings at midnight, bony and/or hairy hands appearing from hidden bedroom panels, secret passageways, and sudden death. Unnerved characters are forever making silly choices which always lead them into the clutches of the ravening ghosts/monsters/lunatics. But the Old Dark House has for long years been a respected avenue in literature & movies to maximize suspense & tension. Indeed, it's only a short walk from West Mansion in this film to Wuthering Heights, Baskerville Hall, Manderley & the Bates House...
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