Friday, October 09, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Cat and the Canary (1939) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard star in THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939), just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

THE CAT AND THE CANARY was released alongside another Bob Hope-Paulette Goddard horror/comedy classic, THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940).  Together this pair of films make perfect Halloween viewing, especially for those of us who prefer their scares mixed with laughter.

THE CAT AND THE CANARY is a briskly-paced "old dark house" film which clocks in at a just-right 72 minutes.  

Hope and Goddard play Wally and Joyce, distant relatives who are summoned to an isolated, decaying home in a bayou for a reading of the will of their late family member Cyrus -- a full decade after the decedent's passing! 

They're greeted, if one can call it that, by the mysterious housekeeper Miss Lu (Gale Sondergaard), who has a habit of hearing voices which tell her that someone is about to die.

Other family members gathered at the house include Charlie (Douglass Montgomery of the 1933 LITTLE WOMEN), Fred (John Beal), Aunt Susan (Elizabeth Patterson), and Cicily (Nydia Westman).  Attorney Crosby (George Zucco) completes the gathering.

Joyce is named heir to the estate, but is required to spend the night -- in the very room where Cyrus died!  And things start getting creepier and creepier, starting with the disappearance of Mr. Crosby.  Plus there's always the chance Joyce will fall victim to the insanity which plagues the family and another heir will be named, per the terms of the will...

Regular readers know that I generally avoid horror films; CAT PEOPLE (1942) or THE UNINVITED (1944) are about as far as I can go with that genre.  

I'm happy to say that THE CAT AND THE CANARY also falls into the "watchable" category for me; it mostly avoids overly disturbing elements and is for the most part just a fun mystery with a pair of lighthearted leads.  That is, until a creepy, hairy hand emerges from a wall during the night...

I'm not a particularly big fan of Hope, but he tamps down here on his usual wisecracking and is all the better for it, rather believable as a nice guy romantic lead.  The jokes are still there, to be sure, they just don't hit the viewer over the head as hard as usual.

I'm quite a fan of Goddard, so it was nice to enjoy a film in which she's every bit as much the lead as Hope, rather than playing a supporting role.

Elliott Nugent directed from a screenplay by Walter DeLeon and Lynn Starling.  The script was based on a play by John Willard which was produced on Broadway in 1922 and again for a few days in 1937.  

The play previously inspired a silent movie in 1927 and a pre-Code version, titled THE CAT CREEPS, in 1930.  It also had a remake in 1979.  It's obviously quite a durable property!

The black and white cinematography of Charles Lang looks terrific on this gleaming Kino Lorber Blu-ray.  Sound quality is also excellent.

Extras on the disc are the trailer; a gallery of trailers for five additional Hope films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Lee Gambin.

I'll be reviewing Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of Hope and Goddard's other spooky film, THE GHOST BREAKERS, at a future date.  (UpdateHere is my review of THE GHOST BREAKERS!)

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Bill said...

I never cared much for Bob Hope's movies--- But he was funny when he was adlibbing.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I appreciate some of that in his films, just in relatively small doses LOL. Glad to find I liked this one.

Best wishes,

10:17 AM  

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