W.B. At The Movies: The Cat and The Canary

My uncle told the story about how The Cat and The Canary scared him as badly as any movie he ever saw, when the hairy clawed hand slowly came out of the dark as the young lady slept, unaware.

I watched the old film again on Prime Video again yesterday, and mostly I was amused. In fact, most of the online references I found refer to it as a “comedy-horror” film. But give my uncle a break — it was 1927, and he was 8 years old.

Twenty years after Cyrus West died, his greedy family gathers at midnight to hear the reading of his will in West’s creepy old mansion. The title is a metaphor and a bonus second metaphor: It seems Cyrus once compared himself to a caged canary surrounded by hungry cats — his unpleasant relatives who want a piece of his fortune. Meanwhile, we hear there’s an escaped lunatic in the neighborhood who thinks he’s a cat and shreds his victims like, well, canaries.

With the benefit of nearly a century of film evolution, not to mention a few decades more than my uncle had when he saw the movie, I could see the film’s sense of humor, evident even in the animated title cards that make the word “GHOSTS!!!” tremble in fear. As one of the first haunted house movies, it’s a bit of a groundbreaker.

OK, these days The Cat and The Canary is probably just for guys like me who love old stuff like silent movies and radio drama. But if you do love old stuff, it’s a fun ride.

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