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Laura La Plante (as Annabelle West) and an assortment of greedy
relatives gather at a Gothic Old Mansion to hear the reading of The
Will. Relatively soon, we learn The Fortune will be inherited by young
Ms. La Plante; however, she must be declared Sane by a doctor -
naturally, this is an incentive for someone to drive the dear girl
This is a stylishly shot silent "comedy/thriller" spoof of "haunted house" stories - like "The Bat" (a 1920 play, and 1926 movie). La Plante and Creighton Hale (as Paul Jones) are okay as the nominal "leads", but the veteran cast must have been much more amusing to the typical 1920s viewer. Tully Marshall (as Mr. Crosby) and Lucien Littlefield (as the Doctor) were two of the best supporting actors around, and Flora Finch (as Aunt Susan) must have been considered a film legend in 1927 - they are all a hoot, but Martha Mattox really steals the "The Cat and the Canary" with her terrific turn as haunted house hostess "Mammy Pleasant"!
Interestingly, this was an adaptation of a (1922) stage play - oddly "silent" films made much better movies out of plays than did later "sound" adaptations. Some may argue "sound" productions never figured out how to turn a good stage play into a good movie. Director Paul Leni and Gilbert Warrenton were among those making art (more or less) out of silent film. By the way, there is a scene with the possible "killer" walking in from the right of the screen; but, this is not a "who-done-it" movie as much as it is a spoof of said
******** The Cat and the Canary (9/9/27) Paul Leni ~ Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Martha Mattox, Flora Finch
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie had incredible production values--with amazing and creepy
cinematography and an excellent musical score in the latest restored
version. They did so much to set the mood and make this a genuinely
The story concerns a rich old guy who has written a strange will. It is only to be read after 20 years and remains sealed until that time. His surviving relatives all return like vultures to pick at the fortune but instead of dividing it among them, he leaves it to one of them with another to receive the fortune if anything happens to the sole inheritor. Naturally, bad things start to happen and the film becomes a whodunit. At times it's really good--with lots of trap doors and suspense, but it also suffers from predictability. The actual conclusion isn't all that surprising. Considering how few potential murderers there are among them and how the one guy sneaks away early in the film with a flimsy excuse, it isn't too surprising who is doing all the bad things in the old dark home.
It's very entertaining and fun--just not exactly the best conclusion I have ever seen.
This is one eerie movie. That it is over 75 years old shouldn't detract from its place among "scary movies." The production values are scrumptious. The acting is a bit over the top (Aunt Susan) but all in all, an eerie night with shadows and interesting interplay among the characters. But the Paul/Annabelle relationship is a bit creepy. Aren't they (gasp!) cousins????? The hairy hand is a bit over the top too. Mammy Pleasant (is her name an inside joke?) is waaay too menacing. I saw this on TMC (loved the sepia tone) and the soundtrack is exhilarating, though a tad too fast for the action. This is a gem of a horror movie.
Twenty years after the death of Cyrus West, his remaining relatives come to his foreboding manor to hear the reading of the will. Cyrus leaves his estate (including the prized West Pearls) to his most distant relative, Annabelle West. The will also stipulates that Annabelle must be deemed sane by a doctor the following morning or she will forfeit the estate and it would be left to another of West's heirs whose named is sealed in an envelope. The person mentioned in the envelope starts a campaign to terrorize Annabelle and convince everyone else in the house that she is insane, including kidnapping the lawyer Crosby. Its up to Annabelle and her distant relative (and romantic interest) Paul uncover the guilty party. This film is a real treat for Old Dark House fans with plenty of suspense, thrills, and mystery to keep the audience in attention from beginning to end. The cast is non-descript with no one really stands out, but Leni's direction and Warrenton's cinematography create the exact mood the film needs. The film's drawbacks are Hale's characterization of Paul and the characters of Cecily and Aunt Susan, who become annoying to watch. Rating, 8.
I always tend to get a bit soft and emotional when commenting on old films, such as the 1927 version of "The Cat and the Canary". Just imagine 85 years of age, this film is, and it still manages to find its way to new audiences. Everyone of the cast and crew is long dead and to put it a bit less respectful decomposed but at least their legacy will live on for much longer than mine or yours (probably). "The Cat and the Canary" even still reaches fairly large new audiences, as I watched it in an artsy theater during a thematic festival and complete with musical guidance on the piano. Paul Leni's version of "The Cat and the Canary" isn't just the first of many adaptations of the famous stage play by John Willard, it also still stands as the ultimate and most prototypic Old Dark House horror. All the trademarks commonly referred to as clichés nowadays can be found here in this trendsetter, and presumably for the first time ever: the reading of the will at midnight, the ominous housemaid, the mysteriously vanishing notary, the secret passageways in the library and behind the bed, the clumsy comic relief cousin and yes even the predictable identity of the maniacal killer on the loose. This film is a joy to behold, thanks to the splendid performances (particularly Tully Marshall as the stern notary, Martha Maddox as the creepy maid and Laura La Plante as the cherubic victim) and the atmosphere that is simultaneously frightful and light-headed! Through some imaginative camera angles, Leni generates and handful of spooky moments but the overall tone remains accessible for wider audiences. There are a few obvious holes in the plot (like for example the main heiress being too young for a testament that lingered around for two decades) but you will gladly overlook those. Silence is golden!
This is one of those must-see-at-least-once haunted house films, being
one of the originals. I've seen it more than a few times. It took me
years to track it down on VHS, nowadays it seems everywhere on digital
platforms. It was very well done, a very pleasant comedy and well worth
while and yet imho is nowhere near as good as the 1939 remake, that is
if comparisons between silents and talkies are permitted. To me it's
the same story therefore the two are comparable, although the 1979
version is probably best utterly forgotten if not completely forgivable
for being such a time waster.
Various quirky guests assemble at huge spooky mansion at midnight exactly 20 years after the death of their eccentric relative Cyrus West to hear the reading of his Will and who gets his money. It always struck me as odd that the greedy relatives didn't initially contest the bizarre rule, after all some of them might have joined him Upstairs in the intervening 2 decades! Creighton Hale and Laura La Plante played the lead characters of Paul and Annabelle excellently but unfortunately without the same sparkle Bob Hope and Paulette Godard had when playing Wally and Joyce 12 years later. However, the 1927 version had some nifty camera-work, inventive intertitles, some witty moments (especially Aunt Susan encountering the wide eyed Paul under her bed!) and nice sets with a lovely atmosphere that all still manages to suck you completely into the plot. I would add that the version I just saw ran 93 minutes with a rather stale soundtrack, I thought the tape I watched in the '90's was more sympathetic at 126 minutes long - there's apparently a wide range of versions now available on DVD so a little care in choosing seems required. As I'm still searching for the Perfect Copy this applies to me too!
All in all an enjoyable and essential silent film to see even if you don't like the genre; if you do then I would particularly recommend the remake as one of the best films ever made.
During the course of this film, one of the characters utters the line "Gosh, what a spooky house," and boy, does that line ever ring true! The original "old dark house" story, "The Cat and the Canary" (1927) was based on a John Willard stage play of 1922 and has been filmed no less than four times as of this date. The film shows us what happens when a dead man's will is read in a creepy old house on the Hudson to a bunch of oddball relatives, one of whom, Laura LaPlante, inherits a fortune with the proviso that she passes a sanity test. And poor Laura's sanity IS put to the test that very night, what with an escaped madman on the loose, a possible ghost running around, hands coming out of the walls, mysterious disappearances, and a house full of secret passages, swing-out bookcases and so on. Despite some comedic bits that border on the inane but never quite cross that fine line, "The Cat and the Canary" is genuinely creepy in parts. It also features excellent photography, interesting camera angles, expressionistic and surrealistic backdrops, some blatant symbolism, fascinating use of superimposed images and an appropriately strange score. The dialogue cards are at times very imaginative, and this crisp-looking print has been nicely color tinted for our viewing pleasure. As usual in many silents, the comedic, cowardly character proves to be more than he initially appears. But I'm not giving anything away here; most viewers will never guess who the murderer/ess is in this film. It's a classic, historic winner, not at all creaky, and even suitable for the kiddies. I do recommend it.
A charming silent film about a group of relatives and friends who gather in a creepy old mansion for the reading of their deceased patriarch's will. I believe this is one of the first films to use the "old dark house" theme, and it uses it well-the setting is indeed dreary and ominous. The lively characters and their amusing antics create a playful atmosphere that counters the creepiness of the house and keeps this from being a complete spook-fest. We have the good girl (lovely Laura La Plante) who is to inherit the patriarch's fortune, and the wacky folks around her who all want a piece of it. Some of these side characters are downright hilarious in their facial expressions and reactions to scares. There's also in an escaped lunatic that may be haunting the grounds. It's all eerie and funny good times.
An old man (Cyrus West) dies accusing his relatives of hovering over
him--like cats over a canary. 20 years after his death his relatives
get together as his will is read in his creepy mansion on a dark and
windy night at midnight (of course). One person gets all the money and
estate--unless they are proved insane. And how about the escaped
lunatic from the nearby asylum...?
This is probably one of the first (if not THE first) movie about the reading of the will, a dark and (purportedly) haunted house and people being murdered. Plotwise it's nothing new and contains some terribly unfunny "comedy". Still it's worth catching.
It's very well directed by Paul Leni (the juxtaposing of images was clever) and he has fun with the title cards (see how "HELP!" is done). The acting is a little bit overdone (but that's common in silent films) and star Laura La Plante is pretty good. I saw the restored print (which is still in pretty bad shape) and it has an excellent music score that helps too.
So, worth catching. No great shakes though.
This film contains some amazing camera work; the innards of a clock
superimposed on a group of people, the camera "floating" down the halls
while blowing curtains (that look like ghosts)
flit in front of it, and a dying man superimposed with medicine bottles and
giant cats (symbolising the relatives who are after
his money) gather around. It's a shame that many people
like silent films, as this one is DEFINITELY worth watching!
The spooky sets, "scared-reaction comedy" and all the rest
it a great film!
My only complaint is that one wishes that the "cat" (who looks VERY creepy) is hardly EVER seen (compared to the other film versions of this movie). I've seen them all and, in my opinion, Bob Hope's version is THE best, but this is a close second!
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