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Friday, July 2, 2010

Cat And The Canary (1939)

Deep in the Louisiana bayou, a small group of relatives gather for a reading of the will but they must spend the night in the house. Meanwhile, a murderous lunatic known as "the cat" has esacaped from a nearby mental asylum. Based on the 1922 play by John Willard and directed by Elliott Nugent. Previously filmed in 1927 with great success, this is one of the great "old dark house" melodramas. Of course, there are the requisite secret passageways, revolving bookcases, hidden treasure, creeping black cats, creepy housekeeper (the great Gale Sondergaard) and dead bodies. Despite Bob Hope's top billing, it's not really a typical Bob Hope vehicle. For the most part, the film plays out like a straight "horror" film with only Hope providing the few laughs there are. Hope doesn't overplay his hand in this one and parcels out his wisecracks sparingly. The lovely Paulette Goddard is the heiress whose life is in danger with other roles going to Elizabeth Patterson, George Zucco, Douglass Montgomery, John Beal and Nydia Westman.

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