Friday, 9 January 2009

The Uncanny (1977)

The omnibus horror film enjoyed considerable success in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s. One of the last such movies was The Uncanny, made in 1977. It was actually a British-Canadian co-production. The three segments are linked by a framing story, in which an eccentric author (Peter Cushing) tries to convince a publisher (Ray Milland) of the importance of his book that sets out to prove that cats are really powerful malevolent entities that threaten to control our destinies and exact terrible vengeance against humans. Cushing, looking particularly cadaverous, gives one of his best performances – he’s wonderfully edgy and more than half-crazed.

Unfortunately the framing story is by far the best part of The Uncanny. The first segment, set in 1912 and dealing with a wealthy woman who decides to leave all her money to her cats, is not too bad. Her spendthrift nephew and one of her servants conspire together to steal her will, but her cats take matters into their own hands.

The second segment, about a young orphaned girl and her cat, is embarrassingly bad. It features some of the crudest process shots you’ll ever see, and some of the worst acting.

The third segment seems promising, with Donald Pleasence as a Hollywood star in the 30s who murders his wife so that he can carry on his affair with her understudy undisturbed. His dead wife’s cat still lives in his house, however, and is determined to avenge its mistress’s death. It tries to be zany comedy but the humour falls very flat, and Pleasence seems strangely muted in his performance. Given the deficiencies of the script you can’t really blame him for being somewhat uninterested. Denis Héroux’s lacklustre direction doesn’t help matters. This is a movie that is perhaps worth a look if it shows up on cable TV but it’s not really worth seeking out.

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