Greedy heirs gather to wait for the death of Henrietta Winslow. Murder, thunder claps, howling cats, gun shots, screams in the night, hidden passages -- all the proper ingredients.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Given one of the most abused titles in cinema history (innumerable films were supposedly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story but few, if any, bothered to be faithful to it), the plot of this one could go in any direction. Universal had already used the title for one of its most stylish (and potent) horror offerings in 1934, so the 'remake' tried something entirely different: an old dark house comedy-chiller on the lines of THE CAT AND THE CANARY (itself brought to the screen several times, the most recent up to that time emanating from 1939). As always with this kind of film, we get a plethora of characters brought together for the hearing of a will and then starting to die violently one by one; the cast is notable and eclectic – including two horror stars (Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi: the latter was also in the earlier version, where his role was far more substantial), whereas the comedy is supplied by Broderick Crawford (proving surprisingly adept and likably accident-prone!) and the insufferable Hugh Herbert. Of course, there is a damsel-in-distress (pretty Anne Gwynne, also serving as Crawford's love interest) being invariably the one to receive the lion's share of the fortune possessed by the dotty (and cat-loving) owner of the estate; also on hand are Gale Sondergaard (as the sinister housekeeper, a virtual reprise of her role in the aforementioned version of THE CAT AND THE CANARY) and Gladys Cooper and Alan Ladd(!) as mother and son (the former is married to Rathbone, but he carries on an affair with another relative present). Being definitely a B-movie, the film is best compared to similarly modest ventures in this vein: even so, not involving recognizable comics (such as THE GORILLA  did with The Ritz Brothers) or a horrific figure (a' la NIGHT MONSTER ) – both films, incidentally, feature Bela Lugosi in an almost identical (and equally thankless) part – the film ends up not satisfying anyone even if it is harmless enough as entertainment, the eerie atmosphere well up to par and the identity of the villain (who perishes flamboyantly in a blaze) a genuine surprise.
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