- Format: Color, DVD-Video, Silent, NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Kino Lorber films
- Release Date: Oct. 9 2007
- Run Time: 80 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- ASIN: B000V3IX82
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #69,683 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
Cat and the Canary (1927) (The Photoplay Restoration)
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The Cat and the Canary (1927) (The Photoplay Restoration)
German horror stylist Paul Leni (Variety) brings his expressionist flourishes to this compendium of haunted clichés, creating one of the most stylish horror movie spoofs ever, a delightful mix of the gothic and the goofy. A greedy bunch of gargoyle-looking relatives (and a pair of young innocents) gather for the reading of a rich uncle's will, which demands that they spend the night in the creepy old mansion. Leni puts them through a fun house of frights: As if secret panels, clutching hands, and a stopped clock that mysteriously comes to life weren't enough, an escaped lunatic from a nearby asylum who rends his victims with catlike claws may have infiltrated the house. Silent movie sweetheart Laura La Plante is the canary of the title, a lovely would-be heiress who becomes the target of plotting relatives, but it's the rogues gallery of suspects that adds the color and comic relief. Leni kicks the film off with a delirious scene of an infirm old man surrounded by gigantic bottles of medicine and menaced by a snarling, spitting. gargantuan cat. The rest of the film is played in lower key, for laughs as much as chills, but it never loses its moody ambiance, highlighted by elegant camerawork and looming shadows. This classic has been remade three times, most famously by Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in 1939, but never as well. The hilarious Harold Lloyd short Haunted Spooks has been included as a DVD bonus. --Sean Axmaker --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
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This movie is quite similar in so many aspects and details to the shorter (53 min.) silent "Midnight Faces" from the previous (1926) year, that much of this review takes the two films as virtually the same show, with slight differences, with this one being an improvement (at least in the aspect of suspenseful nature and length) over the other. It was complete with secret passages, a weird servant, rampant suspicions and insinuations, and cloak and dagger goings on, yet is something of a more serious attempt to create a suspenseful mystery than "Midnight Faces". This time the motive is plain, but the guilty party was, in my mind anyway, impossible to spot...maybe a second look would make it clearer.
It starts out with quite degraded, though not unwatchable footage, that is actually quite quaint in its grainy scratchy quality for the particular scene seen in it's duration (Scratchy graininess quickly fades and then diminishes over the period of the film so as to be completely absent at the end.) There is an interesting artistic bit of double exposure camerawork at the beginning. The finished footage is at times so dark as do be difficult to impossible to see clearly what is transpiring at time, which can be a nuisance with new (non HD) TV's that don't seem to allow you to adjust the contrast. But it's not a fatal flaw here by any stretch, as there were only a few sequences like this. I didn't notice any cropping or difficulty in reading text screens, so it appears properly formatted to ordinary TV screens. I felt the music was fine, thought not particularly spooky, and seldom if ever overdid it or didn't match the scenes.
The "action" was sometimes so turgid over such a long period of time that I started to nod off, yet it was still more suspenseful overall. This was a bit of a mix of clay and steel, in that actions were often at odds with apparent characterizations, which served to obscure solution to the watcher. But it also meant that, in retrospect, some of the actions were illogical. Some acting was so lame and campy as to be laughable.There was an imbalance of exposure to some of the characters in the mystery too, which also made solution to the watcher virtually impossible. Indeed there were some actions that took place that were never really understood or explained in the grand finally. There is a person in the film who looks hilariously frightful when first spotted, but I wont say any more as it would give important plot bits away. Admittedly then there are story weaknesses, but they don't seem to detract from the movie in the final analysis.
Overall I quite enjoyed this feature length (101 minutes) film immensely as it had a neat suspenseful flavour, even if almost ludicrously so, right from the beginning, and a nifty haunty look and feel to the entire film.
Even though the story is formula, this is an excellent presentation of who is included in the will and the old man dies. There a few different variances in this presentation. First the will is not to be opened till 20 years after the old man's death. And someone has tampered with the envelope the names the successor is a person named in the will is also proven to be crazy.
So the inheritor the "will" will now become the new canary being watched by all the other cats in the family. We watch as one by one it looks like they will be dispatched starting with... oh no you don't, watch the movie and find out. And of course this just enforces the suspicion that the inheritor is crazy.
Of course as usual it's always the last person you suspect, it's in an old dark house, secret passages and spooky looking eyes and hairy hands and suspects running from room to room.
Laura La Plante plays the innocent but extremely cute looking niece. Martha Mattox places sinister looking caretaker that watched over the house for 20 years (and the safe with the will). Tully Marshall plays a crusty old lawyer who gets to read the will. Creighton Hale gets to play the comic relief the thoughtful cousin and maybe a bit more.
For those of you expecting a talkie you're going to be disappointed. For the rest of us you can actually see their mouths worked and they actually are saying what is being printed. The fun part of the movie is when the characters express themselves in explicative the written cards are expressed in metacharacters (probably helps get around those ~!@#$%^ scenarios.) There is a good sound score in the background.
This is well worth adding to your silent collection and periodically viewing for missed nuances.
Although any version of this film is worth watching I suggest you look for the restored photography version.
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