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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Cat and the Canary (1939)



I suppose you might be shocked to find out that there is a Bob Hope movie that I would cover for the horror dude blog. There are actually two of them with The Cat and the Canary being the first that I’ll cover. This is a horror comedy that pokes fun at the old Dark House movies of the ‘30s like The Black Cat or Horror Island. See how I promoted my own reviews there? I think I’m getting the hang of this blogging thing!

Old man Norman was a bit of an eccentric. He lived in a spooky old house in the middle of the bayou that could only be reached by boat. On the tenth anniversary of his death his will is read at midnight with all of his heirs present to see who inherits his vast fortune. There is a catch, as there always is in these movies, they have to stay sane and alive or a second will kicks in with a different recipient. A beautiful young artist Joyce is the beneficiary and soon begins to experience all sorts of odd things. The rest of the family is either concerned or hoping she is going crazy! That is except for Wally, played by Bob Hope, who is smitten with her. He tries to come to her rescue but is also a bit cowardly. He milks that for some laughs.

After the lawyer goes missing and a guard from the local insane asylum shows up things get really weird. According to the guard there is a homicidal patient who crawls around on all fours and is called the cat. He might be on the island or even in the house! When the body of the lawyer shows up everyone is fairly certain the nut job is responsible and maybe creeping around the house. Did he kill the lawyer? Is someone in the family trying to drive Joyce crazy? Will Wally end up with the girl? You have to watch this one to find out.

There has to be a grasping hand!
Even in the ‘30s horror comedies were hard to pull off. The Cat and the Canary does a decent job of it. They make sure to give you what you would expect in an Old Dark House movie with hidden passages, a body falling out of a wall, creepy monster hands grasping from the dark, and a beautiful woman in danger. It is well executed and as good as you will see in any movie from this forgotten subgenre of horror. The movie also has some credibility added with the casting of the great George Zucco as the doomed lawyer Crosby. Zucco was in a lot of these spooky flicks and is sadly been forgotten by all but the most hardcore fans. Obviously, he isn’t in a lot of the movie, but it was nice to see him.

The laughs all come from Bob Hope. This isn’t the physical comedy you would expect from an Abbott and Costello or Bowery Boys, but the laughs come from a quick wit and snappy dialogue. Hope got his start on the vaudeville stage and that always shows in his movies. I’ve never seen an actor in movies with a better sense of timing than him. His is spot on in The Cat and the Canary with
Hope and Goddard are great together
some great lines from the first time we see him till the last scene. There is also a bit with a cigar and alligator that is sold by his double take. The love interest/woman in danger is portrayed by Paulette Goddard. She and Hope have great chemistry together on screen and play off of each other nicely. She is also the co-star in the other Hope movie that I will eventually cover for the blog. Clearly someone else noticed how well they worked together.

I get that these older movies might not always work for a younger audience, but I love them. Not everything has to be gore and nudity. Some scares and fun can be had without those. You owe it to yourself to check out at least one Bob Hope flick before dismissing it all. I highly recommend The Cat and the Canary as that one. You might find yourself looking at more.



© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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