When an elderly man dies, some of his relatives gather to hear the reading of the will. When it is read by his attorney, the old man lets it be known how much he despised and loathed his worthless kin. As a result, his will is structured in such a way as to set up a dogfight between his potential heirs as to who will collect his fortune. A remake of the 1939 Bob Hope classic, but with the comedic elements removed and the suspense heightened.
Honor Blackman ... Susan Sillsby
Michael Callan ... Paul Jones
Edward Fox ... Hendricks
Wendy Hiller ... Allison Crosby
Olivia Hussey ... Cicily Young
Beatrix Lehmann ... Mrs. Pleasant
Carol Lynley ... Annabelle West
Daniel Massey ... Harry Blythe
Peter McEnery ... Charlie Wilder
Wilfrid Hyde-White ... Cyrus West (as Wilfrid Hyde White)
Director: Radley Metzger
Codecs: XVid / MP3
This film version of greedy relatives gathering for the reading of a will has been crucified in some corners as a pale shadow of the original, or if not the original the Bob Hope version. While certainly no classic this is a fun retelling of the story that works because the cast is so enjoyable to watch and because the old story works even if its done half way decently.
This was the first version of the story that I ever saw. Endless reruns on HBO years ago have burned portions of this film into my mind, but I didn't mind since the film was just a good time passer.
No, its not perfect. The 1970's retro feel that it has doesn't really work and makes the film feel like it doesn't belong anywhere. There were several films in the 1970's set in the 20's, 30's or 40's that suffered similar fates, particularly if they had any European connections. This is not the place to discuss it, but when you see this film you'll understand what I mean.
And you should see this since its good but far from great. Is this the version if you can only see one go at the story? No, that would probably be the Bob Hope version, but if you want something for a rainy Sunday that won't tax the brain, this is it.
What an odd film. A few decent chuckles, a few wonderful camera tricks, but far too much chitchat and a very nasty sadistic tinge.
The "old dark house" thriller idea is hardly given any new energy, and the thunder sound effects often swamp the dialogue, making some sequences a challenge to endure. I agree with other reviewers that this feels like a 70s version of the 30s, with the same costume/lighting ideas as many of the 70s Agatha Christie adaptations (and Olivia Hussey in the cast).
Wilfred Hyde White is great fun from beyond the grave, and a special word for the wonderful sequence where the usually glorious (but here slightly subdued) Beatrix Lehmann walks behind his projection screen, appears on screen, then emerges from behind the other side. Also, a very effective sequence where Ms Lehmann talks about her late employer with her face reflected in his photo.
Far too many characters I found it hard to care about, all written in very poor, sub-Cluedo dialogue. Even Honor Blackman struggles with the poor material she is given. Some sequences are, frankly, silly. Edward Fox leaps through a window instead of knocking on the door. After relating the saga of the escaped loony, Mr Fox instructs everyone to lock up the house and hide in their rooms; this comes despite his having rendered the house insecure by destroying the lounge window.
There is a nasty tinge of sadistic enjoyment to the final sequences, where the barking mad murderer is cornered in his lair. As much of the rest of the film tries (and very occasionally succeeds) in being light-hearted, the unpleasant conclusion, followed by a twee little "happily ever after" coda, seems at odds with the film's intentions.
Very uneven and unsure of whether to laugh or scream, this really isn't very good.
Divine little "killer-on-the-loose-inside-the-creepy-mansion" thriller as someone supposedly from an insane asylum will perhaps harm a group of cousins, hoping for an inheritance from dear Cyrus West(Wilfrid Hyde-White, simply marvelous in his limited screen time), who stay the night in his eerie large residence, filled with secret passage-ways. Annabelle West(Carol Lynley)is the official heiress to the fortune and mansion because of her being the next in line by name. But, stipulations regarding her getting the money come with receiving the inheritance news..if she is proved to be insane..or murdered..after that night, the next in line to the fortune will get it. When Cyrus' lawyer, and preparer of the will, Allison Crosby(Wendy Hiller;simply wonderful when on screen)is viciously killed, Annabelle is in fear for her life for anyone amongst them has reason for perhaps using blood shed if it means gaining a fortune.
A great cast, macabre sense of humor, and stylish direction really works wonders off of your basic drawing-room, Agatha Christie mystery. The house is a delightfully ominous setting and such spirited, game performances really works wonders in the setting. Edward Fox has a great entrance, through a window no less, as a flamboyant "asylum doctor" who informs the cast of the escaped loony who has fashioned a likeness with a cat, creating claws and such to heighten the effect. Beatrix Lehmann also has a memorable role as the quiet and oddball Mrs. Pleasant, a maid for Cyrus West who often is seen sneaking around corners and entering situations after something important to the plot has taken place. Carol Lynley as the heiress is simply radiant and charming..also having sparkling chemistry with American cousin, songwriter Paul(Michael Callan)who becomes the unlikely hero. Mustn't forget Honor Blackman as the scheming Susan, trying to push Annabelle over the edge while the simply beautiful Olivia Hussey(it was quite hard for me not to drool she's so lovely) is perhaps her lover(it's hinted at mainly when they insist on sharing a room together in such a large place full of empty rooms) Cicily Young who hopes to possibly inherit the money herself. Daniel Massey is Harry, a man who had gained quite a bit of wealth through corrupt business practices while Peter McEnery is the homosexual bit actor/double Charlie, who was quite "close" to Cyrus and favored by the old man. Some of the ugly stuff(despicable slow death of Crosby by the killer(s); possible unsavory activities in one of Cyrus' secret rooms no one accept a select few knew about)is subtly hinted at in key moments of dialogue. A ton of fun, colorful, and at times quite spooky.
While most noted for his adult films, Radley Metzger proved he's not limited to the ol' in-and-out with this fourth remake of the oft-filmed reading-of-the-will format play. The plot is fairly typical stuff (a bunch of heirs, a will with loads of cash to be handed down, a history of insanity in the family), but a good cast, some clever plot twists and Metzger's usual adept hand at visual imagery (check out the shot where the maid recites a monologue through the reflection on a picture of the old man) make this a welcome change of pace to the dreary and remarkably similar Agatha Christie murder mysteries of the same time period.
* Daniel Massey was cast at short notice
* The actor who plays The Cat is not credited
* Horst Bucholz was cast as Wilder but dropped out so Peter McEnery took the part
* Peter McEnery was first cast in the Daniel Massey role
* 'Wilfred Hyde-White' filmed his lengthy cameo in a day.
* Elisabeth Bergner was among those who were offered the role of the housekeeper.
* The part of Crosby the lawyer was first intended for a male actor but when a number of actors passed, they decided to make the role female.
* Wendy Hiller worked 10 days.
You can get Bob Hope - The Cat and the Canary (1939) DVDRip (SiRiUs sHaRe) from :