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The Cat and the Canary on DVD

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 23:00 Written by 

The Cat and the Canary - out now on DVDBob Hope ("Road to Morocco", "The Paleface") stars in this classic haunted house comedy. A decade ago, millionaire Cyrus Norman passed away and now his attorney (George Zucco - "The Pirate") has gathered six relatives to his rickety old mansion to learn which of them has hit the jackpot. Awaiting them is house keeper Miss Lu, an austere and rather sinister lady played by Gale Sondergaard ("Road to Rio"), and a hostile black cat.

The identity of the heir or heiress is quickly revealed, but then things take a turn for the worse when the party discovers that a ghoulish, demented serial killer known as 'The Cat' has escaped from an asylum and is lurking in the neighbourhood. With no way to escape the house situated in the alligator-infested bayou until morning, the fractious, frightened relatives have no choice but to sit tight and hope they survive the night.

The other relatives are played by Paulette Goddard ("Modern Times", "The Women"), John Beal (1935's "Les Misérables"), Douglass Montgomery ("Little Women"), Elizabeth Patterson (""Hail the Conquering Hero") and Nydia Westman ("The Ghost and Mr. Chicken").

Hope is quite superb as the cowardly, mugging actor Wally Campbell. Using nervous, often self-deprecating humour to cope with many a tense predicament, he is utterly charming and very funny. Stand-out lines he nails include one of many moments when the lights go out: “Oh, they do that when you don't pay your bill.” And, best of all, in response to a question about why big empty houses do not appear to scare him: “Actually, I used to be in vaudeville.”

The film, directed by Elliott Nugent ("Mr Favorite Brunette"), is very reminiscent of a Scooby Doo tale, complete with secret passages, a scary monster, bumbling fools and shady characters. There are numerous tense and creepy moments that contrast brilliantly with the comedy, and the finale is genuinely nail-biting.

The film may be roughly 75 years old but I believe it will appeal to modern audiences because it is so thoroughly entertaining; it is a comedy-thriller that transcends time.

Special features include three picture galleries and a trailer. The DVD's black and white image quality is quite impressive for such an old movie, with no perceptible noise and good contrast.

“The Cat and the Canary” (1939) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Fabulous Films. The main feature has a running time of 74 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £12.99, or less from