Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Day 58: The Cat and the Canary

Another silent film I found from my Essential Horror book, this one is an adaptation of a stage play. As such, it has waaaay more title cards than your average silent film to fill in all the dialogue. It was directed by Paul Leni (of Waxworks fame) after he fled fascist Germany and came to work for Universal in the U.S.

The story centers on Cyrus West, a paranoid old bastard who felt his relatives were watching him like cats watch a canary as he got older. He kicks the bucket at the beginning and the plot is set in motion. His relatives are to return to his mansion 20 years after his death and read his will. There is also a back up will, hidden diamonds, a lunatic on the loose, a weirdo doctor and a housekeeper who is super creepy.  All this adds up to trouble for Annabelle West, who inherits her uncle's estate but must be deemed sane by the next morning.

There are laughs and chills in this aplenty. It reminded me of the movie Private Eyes with Don Knotts and Tim Conway or Murder By Death (maybe not so silly). The lunatic costume is truly creepy and the guy who drives the milk truck is a treasure trove of frightened hysterics. One weird scene that sticks out in my mind is when one of the cousins, a nervous young man named Paul, gets caught under the bed of two of his female relatives who are changing for the night. He goes full perv, watching them change but, when they discover him under their bed, no one seems to mind. The 1920s were a strange time.

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