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The silents brought us a number of classic comedians who were skilled at
making the audience laugh without uttering a word. With the advent of
sound, some of these comedians found the transition hard and most still
relied on their old silent routines for their jokes. Bob Hope was the first
comedian who's mouth provided the punchline. The Cat and the Canary was his
first leading part and yet it's not designed purely for his advantage, this
is a great picture, both funny and exciting.
Bob Hope is the star. He's hilarious. He's sympathetic. He's also a coward, which isn't such an asset when you're staying in a house filled with escaped lunatics, suspicious servants, and numerous trapdoors. Hope plays a radio personality who involuntarily becomes the bodyguard to a woman, Joyce, who recently inherited a lot of money. The house is filled with other guests that are upset at having lost out on the inheritance. To make matters worse, if Joyce dies within a month, the money goes to whoever was the substitute inheritor and that person's name lies in an envelope safely hidden in a safe. As guests start dying, the tension increases, as does Hope's one-liner's. "I've got goosepumps. In fact, my goosebumps have got goosebumps."
Today, the plot seems like one from an episode of Scooby-Doo but it's still fun and surprisingly smart. The cast is small but solid and the murderer is never guessed until the end. A few red herrings are thrown in but when the guilty party is revealed, it does make sense, a necessity rarely used in Hollywood today.
As a vehicle for Hope it works a charm. As a movie in itself it should be recognised as a classic.
The 1927 late silent filming of this creaky John Willard play was
stylish and had to its credit excellent cinematography, art direction
and editing. The acting was less than up to par but taken for itself,
it was quite enjoyable.
Hollywood didn't get around to re-filming it until 1939. Paramount acquired the rights from Universal and rewrote the script to give it a comedic bent -all for the talents of Bob Hope in his first big role. The added one liners are still quite funny, especially the one about Republicans. Hope is great, as is Paulette Goddard in the lead, although she is a tougher heroine than the original is intended to be.
The rest of the cast is well-assigned their roles. Standouts are George Zucco as the lawyer, Mr. Crosby and Nydia Westman as Cicily. Gale Sondergaard is properly menacing as the housekeeper, Miss Lu - and Douglass Montgomery is dashingly handsome and kind as Charles Wilder.
The plot devices, make-up and menace did not give me any thrills, but then, I knew the plot and who the killer would turn out to be. I imagine it's much more fun for someone who has never been exposed to the original play or silent film.
Changes in the original - only ten years, not twenty, have passed since the old millionaire's death and certain character names have been changed - Annabelle West is now Joyce Norman. Paul Jones is now Wally Campbell. Harry Blythe is now Fred Blythe. Mammy Pleasant is now Miss Lu - etc.
There's delight, humor, a few chills - and a literally surprise unveiling of the murderer, the motives, and the method. Highly recommended and newly (2004) available on DVD - its first release in any video format.
Most of Bob Hope's films rely heavily on the humour of the times, with references to political and cultural events figuring in significantly. Sometimes this detracts from his films, because the humour is not always self-evident. Not is the case with his performance in the remake of Paul Leni's The Cat and the Canary. Hope has one great one-liner after another in this old dark house mystery-comedy. The story is pretty familiar: a group a relations must stay a night in a house, listen to a will, and then remain there for the evening to see if the inheritor remains sane throughout the evening. Of course, we the audience are treated to secret panels, an occasional murder, hooded culprits, and a great mystery. The Cat and the Canary works so well for a number of reasons. First, it is a very atmospheric film taking place in the swamplands of Louisiana. The film is by no means big budget but does do the most with what it has. The surrounding swampland have an authentic feeling to them and the house itself is magnificently eerie. The cast is quite good with Bob Hope saving the film from tiresome formula with his special brand of humour and his excellent timing. Despite his great performance, he is almost upstaged by Gale Sondergaard as a dark, brooding servant. George Zucco also has a nice supporting role. All in all a nice way to spend an evening.
CAT AND THE CANARY still is a great mystery/comedy film. With it's two young stars Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, who go on to make yet another two films together, THE GHOST BREAKERS and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, there is great fun and thrills as they spend the night in a spooky old house with several guests that disappear or are found killed mysteriously. Paulette inherits the place through a will, including a jewel necklace which she promptly places under her pillow before going to bed. There is a scary scene with the damsel in distress in bed sleeping, and a hairy grotesque hand slowly starts to creep over her pillow. A wonderful performance by the supporting cast including Gale Sondergard as an evil-looking housekeeper, George Zucco, again in a thriller, and Elizabeth Patterson and Nydia Westman as the two dizzy relatives. This film put both of the leads over the top and onto major star caliber. Rarely on television, it can be seen around Halloween on American Classics.
This tale of greedy relatives out to get a fortune had been filmed at least
two times before Bob Hope took a crack at it, and the world is a better
place for it.
Though not the perfect haunted house film, this is a very funny movie. One of the reason that this isn't perfect is that the wisecracks get in the way of the mystery, or if not the mystery, the suspense. Such is the danger of comedy thrillers, either its too funny so its not scary, or too suspenseful and the comedy destroys the tension at the wrong time, here its simply too much humor before it turns serious.
Fortunately here funny is good, so even if the suspense gets the short end of the stick, its still an enjoyable time at the movies. What more could you want, especially since it gives Bob Hope ample chance to do what he does best.
See this movie. Its a lot of fun. 8 out of 10.
Oh my gosh, how scary is this film? I first saw it when I was about six, and I only remember the hand coming through the wall to strangle the woman in bed, and the body falling out of a cupboard. This was enough to make me stay away from cupboards and beds for many years to come! I saw it again recently and found it more comical this time around, especially Bob Hope's performance, but I'm still scared of cupboards!
By far the best version of this fun mystery that easily surpasses the 1979 remake. Succeeds as both comedy and mystery and is also one of Bob Hope's best roles, before being caught up in all the road films. My only regret is that it is not available in video or DVD.
Bob Hope murder mystery/old dark house parody film with someone trying to knock off an heiress. A fiendish figure named The Cat appears but all is not what it seems. This was good fun..I quite enjoyed it although it could have benefited from a few more legitimate frights..certainly a good starting point for Hope who went on to make many more delightful films like this.
This has to be classed as one of Bob Hope's better films, even though it was one of his first in a starring role. He uses the script to perfection with his one-liners while playing the role of a pretty scared coward, and he is admirably supported by Paulette Goddard as the future heiress. In a very good supporting cast there are a number of stalwarts like George Zucco, Elizabeth Patterson and Gale Sondergaard who add so much to the atmosphere of the film. Take it for what it is - a fun scary romp, and you will be spending a most pleasurable 75 minutes, Oh, and by the way it has the required sliding panels, mists, falling bodies, etc that go such a long way in providing Hope with suitable cracks. Enjoy.
This has always been one of my top10 favourite films, since I first saw
it in 1972, at least 14 times since. Bob Hope was still a little green
at this stage, but you can almost see (and hear) him coming of age in
CATC, his comic delivery technique and timing noticeably improved by
the end. The spooky atmosphere generated onto the b&w nitrate stock by
the Paramount cast and crew was palpable, compare it - if you can
stomach it - to the 1979 remake!
8 people are summoned to a will-reading at a rather eerie old house; the one that wins the fortune seems to be going insane as one of her relatives sweetly puts it, whilst another just says she's going out of her mind. There's only 2 nice people here, Hope and Goddard, the rest are more or less on the make. She's the visual jewel in here - as Hope says, "Terrific". The scene with Goddard and the Cat in the library is my all-time Spooky Moment on Film - nowadays all the "artists" involved in the making of "horror" films don't trouble about niceties like Spookiness, but just get on with the Gore. That of course is the problem for most people coming to this, they've probably inured themselves over the years to see disgusting and vile-ent things - so much so that they would laugh at the most savage scene in this where someone gets knifed in the back. The 1927 Laura LaPlante version is good and nicely atmospheric too, but it's difficult comparing chalk and cheese to silent and talking pictures - they're both great comedy films on their own merits.
A wonderful piece of art, topped the next year with an even better follow up, Ghost Breakers.
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