Reel Classics

The Cat and the Canary (1939) - Blu-ray Review

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The Cat and the Canary (1939)

Swamp gators (with their mouths taped shut as evidenced by this crisp 4K handling!), dead lawyers, and mighty sums of money!  Such frightful delights await those that can stay sane in the Norman clan. 

But can they survive the night in his CREEPY estate? 

"a timeless classic that matches sinister suspense with sure-footed hysteria"


 

That’s right, The Cat and the Canary, a certified "Reel Classic" thanks to the chemistry (and comedic charisma) on display between Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, has arrived on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics and we couldn’t be more delighted!

Perhaps it is the banging shutters on the outside of the dilapidated house that creates the mood in this scare-a-minute comedy.  Maybe it is the bayou surrounding the property as a Native American guide (George Regas), appearing through the fog surrounding the Louisiana swamp, paddles the executor of the estate of millionaire Cyrus Norman, Mr. Crosby (George Zucco) to mistress Miss Lu (Gale Sondergaard), on the eve of the will reading.  Or maybe it is the tomb-like appearance of the house itself that closes the deal in this horror/comedy from director Elliot Nugent (Never Say Die).

But whatever it is, The Cat and the Canary - starring Bob Hope as Wally Campbell and Paulette Goddard as Joyce Norman (who stands to inherit it all) - remains a favorite of mine thanks to its killer Gothic atmosphere and the rich laughs sewn into the very fabric of the rugs on the floor throughout this isolated mansion.  With so much money on the line, it’s a wonder that Joyce survives the night . . . which the clanging of a gong as the evening (and the will reading) begins eerily suggests.The Cat and the Canary (1939)

Someone is going to die.  Maybe it will be the black cat who seems eager to trip all the guests upon their entry and their stay in the house. Maybe it is the lawyer responsible for carrying out the will reading 10 years after the death of Old Cyrus, but does it really matter when their are eyes that constantly watch Joyce and Wally's every move? 

Anyway, when the gang - Fred Blythe (John Beal), Charles Wilder (Douglass Montgomery), Cicily Young (Nydia Westman), Aunt Susan Tilbury (Elizabeth Patterson), Joyce, and Wally - gathers round to hear the will, they are shocked and surprised to hear that Joyce is going to get it all - if she can stay sane for 30 days or survive the night!  And so the calamity to drive her mad begins inside this very haunted house.  There are creeks and shrieks galore as Wally is the only to come to her side while a killer stalks the shadows, hands come out of the walls, and bodies disappear!

With great lines, thanks to Hope and his timing, and lots of great scares, The Cat and the Canary delivers hidden doors, secret passageways, and lots and lots of things that go bump in the night - like unreliable electrical issues, spirits in the house, and a murderer called "The Cat" who has escaped a nearby insane asylum.  The film might be a remake of another film that was just over ten years old at the time of its release and it might be based on a stage play from 1922, but The Cat and the Canary is a timeless classic that matches sinister suspense with sure-footed hysteria.

The Cat and the Canary is now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

5/5 stars

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- September 15, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Comedy legend Bob Hope (My Favorite Brunette, Road to Morocco) is at his very best in the hilarious comedy-thriller The Cat and the Canary. A decade after the death of an eccentric millionaire, his remaining relatives gather for the reading of the will at his abandoned mansion set deep in the Louisiana bayous. Tension builds after his niece Joyce (Paulette Goddard, The Ghost Breakers) is named the sole inheritor and it is revealed that one of the other relatives will get everything if the heiress goes insane within the next 30 days. The timid Wally (Hope) vows to protect Joyce who must spend the night in the haunted mansion along with her jealous relatives, a creepy maid and a homicidal maniac who has just escaped from a nearby sanitarium. An equal mix of both frights and fun, this unforgettable classic has become the gold standard for the horror-comedy genre. Directed by Elliott Nugent (Nothing But the Truth) and based on the classic John Willard (The Mask of Fu Manchu) play.

Video:

With a crisp black-and-white transfer, The Cat and the Canary lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts of Kino Lorber Studio Classics.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Black levels - of which there are a lot thanks to all the tuxedos and suits - are powerful and thick.  Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it thanks to its 1080p handling.  The black-and-white photography here sizzles. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  

Audio:

You’ll be laughing over the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There is a NEW Audio Commentary by Author/Film Historian Lee Gambin that is everything you could ask for when it comes to diving into a film’s history, especially this one with its rich setting and its atmospheric comedy.

Special Features:

There’s the Lee Gambin commentary and a trailer included with the release.

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual content and language.
Runtime:
72 mins
Director
: Elliott Nguent
Writer:
Walter DeLeon, Lynn Starling
Cast:
Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, John Beal
Genre
: Comedy | Horror
Tagline:
Who is THE CAT? His movements soundless, his approach unnoticeable, his vengeance swift! Who will feel his horrible, hairy grasp next?
Memorable Movie Quote: "I had no idea how small time I was until I met you."
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pitures
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 10, 1939
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 15, 2020.
Synopsis: Comedy legend Bob Hope (My Favorite Brunette, Road to Morocco) is at his very best in the hilarious comedy-thriller The Cat and the Canary. A decade after the death of an eccentric millionaire, his remaining relatives gather for the reading of the will at his abandoned mansion set deep in the Louisiana bayous. Tension builds after his niece Joyce (Paulette Goddard, The Ghost Breakers) is named the sole inheritor and it is revealed that one of the other relatives will get everything if the heiress goes insane within the next 30 days. The timid Wally (Hope) vows to protect Joyce who must spend the night in the haunted mansion along with her jealous relatives, a creepy maid and a homicidal maniac who has just escaped from a nearby sanitarium.

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

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