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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Cat and the Canary (1978)

I’m a big fan of the Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard version (review here) of this story shot almost forty years earlier in nineteen thirty nine, so I was interested in this remake. After poking around and finding out that Olivia Hussey, Carol Lynley and an honest to God Bond girl, Honor Blackman starred I was even more excited to check it out. How does it compare and is it worth checking out? Might as well jump in and find out.

After some unpleasantness involving a Cat and a Canary… I guess they took the title a bit literally here… relatives start to arrive for the reading of a will. In total there are six relatives all vying for the fortune of their deceased and odd potential benefactor Cyrus West. There is some frustration as they have been waiting for twenty years as his will stipulated. Why the wait? There seems to be some shenanigans involving him wanting to see who made it that far. Old Cyrus basically feels like his family is undeserving leeches and is playing some games with them from beyond the grave.

After some bickering it is announced that his niece or great niece… they aren’t quite specific about relationships… Annabelle is the sole beneficiary. Though she needs to make it thru the night alive and insane to collect. Yep the old guy set them up with a motive for murder. Though the catch is no one knows who is next in line if she should be unavailable. Though the executor of the will disappears so someone might have found a way to find out. Lots of creeping around the house in the dark while a storm rages outside ensues. There is also some romance between Annabelle and her cousin Michael who I suppose are kissing cousins! Oh, and another murder. Eventually the identity of the killer and their motives are revealed.

This version of the movie made me appreciate the magical delivery and chemistry of Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. This isn’t quite a shot for shot remake, but it basically is the same story. The main characters of Annabelle (Carol Lynley) and Michael (Paul Jones) don’t have nearly the chemistry which means we have time to notice how linear and at times inexplicably boring the basic plot here is. People come to the house, a will gets read, and then folks start to yell and argue. Even when the first body is found it isn’t all that interesting. There are also attempts at comedy with Michael stumbling around a bit in the dark, but it is quickly abandoned as he simply lacks the chops to pull it off. The dude isn’t funny but that doesn’t stop them from trying.

This version of the story is also much longer clocking in at almost an hour and forty minutes. There simply isn’t enough meat on the bone for that sort of runtime. We spend far too much time on characters that simply don’t matter much to the plot while others like Hussey’s character are totally wasted. Honestly you had her and Honor Blackman on the cast and give them nothing to do? That seems like a bad decision. Much of this I blame on director and co-writer Radley Metzger. That name might sound familiar to you. He was best known for making adult films and I believe that this was his one attempt at a “legitimate” movie. I use quotes because I don’t automatically discount the quality of work in classic adult movies as many are quite good. Here Metzger misses every opportunity to make a decent movie and that is a bummer.

I could go on but honestly, I think that I’ve made my point. There is nothing charming or engaging about this version of The Cat and the Canary. Do yourself a favor and just check out the Hope version. You can pretty much find it streaming all over the place. That movie is very much worth your time this one not so much.


© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

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