Greedy heirs gather to wait for the death of Henrietta Winslow. Murder, thunder claps, howling cats, gun shots, screams in the night, hidden passages -- all the proper ingredients. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
This little gem has long been one of my favourites: since I taped it in the '80's my daughter and I have watched it dozens of times, and although the 1934 horror film may be better it's still lovely to watch. Universal Pictures in the 1940's could churn out inconsequential family entertainment films like this so seemingly effortlessly and all with a special atmosphere that marked them apart from their bigger and richer rivals. Russell Gausman as set director did his usual fantastic job of creating something gorgeous to look at from nothing and the nitrate-film photography by Stanley Cortez was beautifully brooding, when the comedy allowed.
Relatives with secrets and problems assemble at a dying old lady's spooky old house to find out how much they'll inherit from her when the day comes. Or whether her army of beloved pampered cats will get it all. Dapper Basil Rathbone had the biggest problems of them all - but was he the one who murdered the old lady, or was she killed from kindness after all? There could have been some mysterious feline power at work, Alan Ladd looked like he'd shoot everyone for a nickel, Gladys Cooper was very demure even if very strong, Gail Sondergaard (her line "Two is equal to one" matched her "Sometimes they get into the machinery" from Cat And The Canary) and Bela Lugosi were as creepy as ever, Claire Dodd was plain nasty and John Eldredge just too dumb to be real. However I don't care what anybody says the lovely Anne Gwynne was never going to be Guilty in my eyes! Chunky Broderick Crawford and Hugh Herbert bumble through it all as the hero and light relief this was a big vehicle for Herbert to woo-hoo his way through too. His over-zaniness can be a problem at times was he and Crawford there in place of some songs or Abbott & Costello and overall did he help or detract? And what the Hell was Anne Gwynne supposed to see in Broderick Crawford anyway??
Maybe it helps to have seen it when young to see it now through rose-tinted spectacles. It can be too melodramatic at times, especially during the otherwise gripping climax, but with plenty of lovely smoky visuals and a rich atmosphere to wallow in I've always enjoyed watching this and hope to many more times.
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