The Cat and the Canary is directed by Radley Metzger who also adapts the screenplay from the play written by John Willard. It stars Honor Blackman, Michael Callan, Edward Fox, Wendy Hiller, Olivia Hussey, Wilfred Hyde-White, Carol Lynley, Beatrix Lehmann, Daniel Massey and Peter McEnery. Music is by Steven Cagan and cinematography by Alex Thomson.
Ah the dark house murder mystery, sadly seeming now like a relic of our cinematic pasts. There are many to choose from for those of us who choose to go back in time and cosy up by a warm fire, with drink in hand, to involve ourselves in the standard plot formula of various folk getting bumped off by a scheming murderer during a short time period and under one roof. John Willard's The Cat and the Canary is a well mined source for such fun and fearful frolics, as of the time of writing, this 1979 version stands as the last attempt to transfer the play to the screen.
There is nothing unduly bad about Metzger's movie, it's just that it is rarely inspiring either. The cast is well assembled, with one or two creaky performances aside, the mystery element holds strong, and period flavours are tasteful. But the mansion it's set in is too bright and un-threatening, it's overtly talky as a good hour is used to set up characters and plot dynamics, while there's a distinct lack of acidity in the script. Still, it's never less than fun, and for the innovative reading of the will segment alone this version is worth seeking out by those who decry the demise of the old dark house set mystery thriller. 6/10