Wilbur Gray, a horror writer, has stumbled upon a terrible secret, that cats are supernatural creatures who really call the shots. In a desperate attempt to get others to believe him, Wilbur spews three tales of feline horror.
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Wilbur Gray visits Frank Richards so he can get his book published. This book Gray has written are about cats. Cats watching everyone and controlling everything. He mentions the stories in the book are all true, and gives three examples. The first involves the murder of a cat-loving old woman who gives her entire fortune in her will to her cats. Not everyone is happy about the wills, but would have to get past the cats to get the the will. The second story is a tale of black magic between two girls and the third story is a tale of murderous revenge... by a cat. Written by
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Wellington? Wellington? Where are you Wellington?
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In this horror anthology, a writer (Peter Cushing) attempts to prove to his sceptical publisher that cats are really menacing supernatural beings by relating three stories of feline terror.
This horror anthology had the potential to be great, yet through overly prolonged storytelling and less than adequate acting in most places it is unfortunately condemned to resting in the mid ranks of the genre. Cushing, as usual, was delightful in his role as the seemingly paranoid writer Wilbur Gray, but his rather short screen time meant that the gauntlet would fall to the rest of the cast who, with the exception of a select few performers which most notably included Donald Pleasance, were never able to perform to the standards required to make the lengthy segments enjoyable. While one can obviously see that the intention from director Denis Héroux (his final directorial effort) and writer Michel Parry (who went on to co-write the underrated sci-fi/horror fest Xtro') was to create a suspenseful and unnerving film, the recurrent sequences which border on non-eventful lead the viewer to become bored, thus lessening the impact of the movie. That is not to be taken as a reproachful statement as the film is far from entirely lamentable; it's more of a regrettable observation when one considers what might have been.
The first segment in this tale of mental moggies concentrates on the servant of a wealthy elderly woman. After her employer Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) changes her will in favour of her cats, servant Janet (Susan Penhaligon) is convinced by her boyfriend and employer's nephew, Michael (Simon Williams), to steal the copy of the new will and testament from the safe of Miss Malkin and destroy it in order for his Aunt's money to be bequeathed to him. As expected, the theft of the will is bungled and Janet faces a revenge attack from Miss Malkin's feline friends. In my opinion, this segment is by far the most enjoyable of the three. Although it suffers from some of the problems that I have already mentioned, the sporadic nature of such occurrences doesn't have the negative impact that they would have throughout the rest of the film. There is a wonderful blend of suspenseful horror and quite graphic scenes of violence which culminate to make this segment enduring to the viewer. Easily the most horrific and by far the most entertaining, this segment would receive 8/10 from me.
The following segment, set in Canada, tells the story of young Lucy (Katrina Holden, who would never work in film again) who goes to live with relatives after the death of her parents. Her only friend, a black cat named Wellington, is the subject of unwanted attention and maltreatment from the jealous Angela (Chloe Frank, who previously appeared in the far superior horror anthology The House that Dripped Blood'). As Angela's malice towards Lucy and her cat grows, Angela becomes more determined to have the cat removed from the household. The poorest of the three main segments is an unwelcome change in pace for the film. Virtually the entire segment seems incongruous to the rest of the film, and while some additions to the story seem to fit the theme when considered at face value, the ludicrous nature of the tale is little but damaging to the movie. Asinine storytelling accompanied by imprudent special effects and atrocious acting results in this segment getting a lowly 3/10 from me. The only true saving grace about this segment is that one really does come to despise Angela as was so obviously the intention.
The final segment stars Donald Pleasance as a wife-murdering, adulterous Hollywood actor who becomes the target of retribution by his deceased wife's cat. Not great, but this segment helps to rebuild the film after its near demolition due to the previous segment. Once again, the movie falters in the already mentioned areas, but Donald Pleasance's wonderful, if hammy performance is almost capable of carrying the segment off alone. The length of the segment is the most damaging to this particular part of the film, but overall there is enough to keep the viewer entertained to at least some degree. There is almost a return to the more graphic horror that can be seen in the first segment, but generally the horror is induced through some well executed suspense building techniques which occasionally resulted in a gruesome climax. This segment may not be up to the standard of the first, but it certainly adds the credibility back to the film and is enjoyable enough. This segment would get 7/10 from me.
The closing scenes featuring Peter Cushing end the film well with a couple of truly haunting images. While no image could match the haunting aura of the final scenes of The Wicker Man' (1973) or The Omen' (1976) (the two films that I believe to have the most distressing final image), the final scene that features Cushing is remarkably quite unsettling, especially when you consider the rather barmy subject matter. The Uncanny' is far from a great movie, but it has enough redeeming features to make the film enjoyable for one watch. Unfortunately, it is quite hard to take the film seriously, especially when taking the absurd second segment into consideration. It is hard to forget the detrimental effect that the second segment had on the film and thus my rating has been lowered to some extent. My rating for The Uncanny' - 6½/10.
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