Today: May 21, 2024

The Cat and the Canary

The Cat and The Canary is a ground-breaking masterpiece of early cinematic horror, directed by the man who literally perfected the old, dark house trope.

Paul Leni’s (The Man Who Laughs) seminal horror is not just one of the most important and influential films in the history of American genre cinema — but the film that kickstarted the Universal Horror cycle of the 1930s.

Twenty years after the death of millionaire Cyrus West, his surviving relatives are called together in a decaying mansion on the Hudson River. There, they gather to hear West’s lawyer Roger Crosby (Tully Marshall) read his last will and testament and discover that West has left everything to his niece Annabelle (Laura La Plante). That is, on the condition that she is judged legally sane. As the family settles in for the evening, tensions rise when they are informed that a murderer nicknamed the Cat has escaped from a nearby asylum and is suspected to be on the grounds. Crosby soon disappears in mysterious circumstances, which proves to be just the first in a series of horrifying events that will punctuate a long, dark night of terror – during which Annabelle’s sanity will be called into question again and again.

Based upon the 1922 stage production by John Willard, The Cat and the Canary is a perfect blend of horror and black comedy — and stands at the apex of a cycle of films adapted from mystery plays throughout the 1920s. Filmed five other times, most notably in 1939, starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, Paul Leni’s silent version is a gem of a film — that’s arguably never been bettered. It later inspired James Whale’s The Old Dark House.

Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema latest release marks The Cat and the Canary’s first time ever on blu-ray. And about time too — this glorious 4k restoration is exactly what  collectors have been baying for. There’s likely not much here for gore-hounds, and fans of slasher flicks. But if Ghostbusters is your bag, then you’re going to love Leni’s blend of slow-burn chills with dark humour.

Extras include:

  • Limited Edition O-card slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys (first print run of 2000 copies).
  • 1080p HD presentation on blu-ray from a 4K digital restoration of the original negatives supplied by MoMA.
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 score by Robert Israel; compiled, synchronised and edited by Gillian B. Anderson, based on music cue sheets compiled and issued for the original 1927 release. 
  • Brand new audio commentary by author Stephen Jones and author / critic Kim Newman.
  • Brand new audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby.
  • Mysteries Mean Dark Corners – brand new video essay by David Cairns & Fiona Watson.
  • Pamela Hutchinson on The Cat and the Canary – brand new interview with writer and film critic Pamela Hutchinson.
  • Phuong Le on The Cat and the Canary – brand new interview with film critic Phuong Le.
  • A Very Eccentric Man & Yeah, a Cat! – extracts from John Willard’s original play.  Lucky Strike – Paul Leni gives a full-throated endorsement to the product that got him through filming The Cat and the Canary.
  • PLUS: A collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Richard Combs, Craig Ian Mann, and Imogen Sara Smith. 

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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