The Cat and the Canary (1979 film)
Infobox Film | name = The Cat and the Canary
caption = DVD cover
producer = Richard Gordon
writer = John Willard (play)
runtime = 98 min
amg_id = 1:8585
imdb_id = 0077304
"The Cat and the Canary" is a film released in 1979. It is a remake of the 1927 film of the same name.
Glencliff Manor, September 27, 1934. Mrs. Pleasant (
Beatrix Lehmann), the housekeeper, is shown opening the door for Allison Crosby ( Wendy Hiller), the executor of the estate, who has arrived to present the will of the deceased owner of the estate, Cyrus West (Wilfred Hyde-White), who made the stipulation that it be presented twenty years to the day after his death.
Mrs. Pleasant and Mrs. Crosby proceed to a large operating refrigeration unit in another part of the house. Their dialogue states that Mrs. Crosby herself locked and chained the unit immediately after West's death and it has not been opened since. Upon opening the unit, they find a black box and a mysterious and improbable addition: a live moth. They react with surprise, since Mrs. Pleasant has no key and Mrs. Crosby has not even been in the house in twenty years.
They are interrupted by a rock thrown through a window, announcing the first heir to arrive, Harry Blythe (Daniel Massey), a former doctor. He reveals his dislike for one of the other heirs, Charlie Wilder (
Peter McEnery), a former flying ace, for several reasons, including the fact that another of the heirs, Annabelle West ( Carol Lynley), a noted London fashion designer, has always liked Charlie over Harry. Mrs. Crosby states that including Harry there are six surviving heirs (all distant cousins), and makes a cryptic remark stating that she will not be reading the will, Cyrus West himself will be.
The next to arrive are Susan Sillsby (
Honor Blackman), a noted sportswoman, and Cicily Young ( Olivia Hussey), who are roommates. Charlie then arrives, stating that he barely remembers Cyrus West at all. He gets on very well with Susan and Cicily but immediately strikes sparks with Harry. Mrs. Crosby asks that they try to get along, but they immediately start in on each other again. In one of their exchanges, Mrs. Crosby reveals that she has been keeping track of the surviving family members, showing a toothpaste advertisement Charlie made years earlier. The last to arrive are Paul Jones ( Michael Callan), an American songwriter with an annoying sense of humor, and Annabelle.
Mrs. Crosby asks the heirs to all sit so that she can begin, but while they are doing this a clock in the house chimes, one that Mrs. Pleasant says hasn't chimed in twenty years. It strikes seven times, which makes the highly superstitious Mrs. Pleasant observe that since there are eight people in the house some of them will not live.
Mrs. Crosby continues with her opening statements, reading off the accomplishments of the various heirs. During this, dark events in the lives of Cicily and Harry are hinted at, as well as the existence of the famous (and missing) West diamond necklace. Mrs. Crosby then reveals the contents of the black box from the refrigeration unit: a film of Cyrus West himself addressing his heirs and reading the will, which was kept refrigerated to prevent degradation. There is also a second film, which will only be shown if the heir named in the first film either dies or is discovered to be insane.
Mrs. Crosby, Mrs. Pleasant, and the heirs all proceed to another room, where an elaborate dinner has been prepared and served, with a projector and film screen in a clever setup. Cyrus expresses his disgust with his relatives, calling them all bastards except for someone named ‘Mew Mew.’ In the film-within-a-film, Cyrus reveals that there is a statistical probability that one or more of them are likely to be mentally unbalanced. When he performs the official reading of his will, he names his heir the man or woman bearing his surname, which makes his heir Annabelle. After this, he asks that all but his heir should leave the room so that he can reveal the location of the West necklace. Once Annabelle is alone, however, Cyrus only gives the cryptic clue that he wrote the answer "on something which has been waiting to take a breath for twenty years."
The heirs all retire to their rooms, but Harry and Charlie have a fight in the hallway, revealing that Harry killed a patient. In the middle of the fight, a man in a cloak and black slouch hat crashes through a window to stop the fight. He reveals himself to be Hendricks (Edward Fox), the chief psychologist of a nearby sanitarium. He's come to warn them of the escape of a homicidal killer from the sanitarium. During this period, it is revealed that Cicily killed the manager of a club where she danced.
After Hendricks’ departure, the heirs decide to search the house for the maniac, and further that Annabelle not be told what Hendricks has said. While the search is on, the heirs one by one visit Annabelle to see if she’s all right without explaining why, which begins to make her suspicious. Susan, however, makes a point of telling Annabelle about the maniac in detail. Charlie and Harry express their love for her during their visits, but she turns them both down.
Mrs. Crosby calls Annabelle to the library to tell her something vital about the family history, but while she is there the clock chimes again, only six times, and a mysterious man in black pulls Mrs. Crosby into a secret panel while Annabelle is distracted. Annabelle screams when she realizes Mrs. Crosby has disappeared, but when everyone gathers they don’t believe Annabelle actually spoke to Mrs. Crosby, thinking she was imagining things.
After returning to her room, Annabelle realizes that Cyrus’ clue about the necklace refers to the bottle of wine they were drinking at dinner, and she hurries down to retrieve the cork, on which is written the word “ICE.” She tells Paul, who supposes that the cork must refer to the refrigeration unit where the film was kept. Upon searching it, they discover the necklace hidden inside a block of ice.
Annabelle decides to wear the necklace to bed, but while she is resting the man in black comes out of a secret entrance in Annabelle’s room and takes the necklace from her neck. Her screams bring the others into her room, but at first they don’t believe anyone was there as the door was locked. Susan suggests that Annabelle is losing her mind, but Paul discovers the secret entrance behind the armoire. Opening it, the body of Mrs. Crosby falls into the room, her throat cut. Harry and Charlie lock the room and put Annabelle in a safer part of the house and begin searching the house again. While searching the basement, Paul is struck from behind by the man in black and is found by Mrs. Pleasant.
While Paul is brought to Annabelle, Susan goes downstairs to examine Mrs. Crosby’s body but while she is there she is attacked by the man in black and also killed. Paul goes to get the second film from Mrs. Crosby’s body, but not before he reveals he also has feelings for Annabelle, who seems to return them. Instead of the second film, however, Paul finds a medal lying next to the body. Annabelle finds another secret passage entrance in her room and leaves to find Paul, but the man in black kidnaps her and takes her into a secret basement room filled with torture devices ("Cyrus’ private entertaining room"). Once there, Annabelle attacks him, inadvertently pulling off his mask, revealing that it is Charlie. Charlie tells her that the reason why he’s been doing all this is because she “cheated him” when she got the inheritance instead of him, despite the fact that he was Cyrus’ favorite after he killed Cyrus’ cat ‘Mew Mew.’ Annabelle realizes that Charlie is the next in line named in the second film, which Charlie is holding. In the middle of this, Hendricks opens the door and Annabelle rushes to him to escape, but instead of rescuing her he knocks her out. “Hendricks” is an old friend of Charlie’s from the army that specializes in sadistic torture and his crashing through the window was staged.
“Hendricks” notices that Charlie’s lucky medal is missing and Charlie leaves to retrieve it. When he arrives at Mrs. Crosby’s body, he discovers Paul under the sheet instead holding the medal, who had figured it out. Charlie attacks Paul, but before the fight can progress Mrs. Pleasant enters and shoots Charlie. Paul proceeds to the basement room and shoots “Hendricks” before he can proceed with the torture.
The next morning, Paul and Annabelle watch the second film, which segues into the end credits.
The Cat and the Canary by John Willard
*imdb title|id=0077304|title=The Cat and the Canary (1979)
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