Monday, 10 March 2014

The Shadow Of The Cat (1961)

Mixing together elements of Poe, Hammer and also classic Ealing Studios fare (I, for one, felt a bit of a Kind Hearts & Coronets vibe running through the whole thing), The Shadow Of The Cat is a real treat for fans of the macabre.

Andre Morell plays the main role, a schemer who is shown killing his wife, and then burying her, at the start of the movie. He is helped in this matter by the butler (Andrew Crawford) and maid (Freda Jackson). There are no witnesses to the crime, except the cat owned by the deceased. While everyone involved tries to feign innocence and ignorance as the police investigate the disappearance of the victim, the cat starts to cause tension, and even seems to be deliberately plotting against the dastardly trio.

Written by George Baxt, and directed by John Gilling, this is standard stuff in many ways. The house in which all of the action takes place is full of dark corners and creaking floorboards, the assembled characters are, for the most part, not very nice, and the one true innocent (played by Barbara Shelley) takes a hell of a long time to realise that all isn't quite as it seems. The only main difference is the fact that revenge is being planned by a cat. That should make the whole thing quite laughable and ridiculous, but ends up making it quite amusing and brilliant.

Morell is as wonderful as he usually is in his role, and the scenes featuring him alongside Crawford and Jackson are all pretty great. Shelley is as lovely as ever, Conrad Phillips does his best to help her as the dependable Michael Latimer, a young man helping out the police in their investigation. Richard Warner, William Lucas and Vanda Godsell all do just fine as the other family members who arrive at the house to ensure that they're going to receive some inheritance, and Catherine Lacey plays the ill-fated cat owner for a minute or two at the start of the movie.

Well worth your time, The Shadow Of The Cat is an unjustly neglected slice of macabre fun that deserves to keep delighting fans who stumble across it.


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