For Reel

The Cat and the Canary (1939)
November 13, 2014, 3:12 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Elliott Nugent
3 Stars
The Cat and the CanaryBob Hope and Paulette Goddard were paired for the first of three films in The Cat and the Canary, an “old dark house” horror film injected with Hope’s humorous cowardice and penchant for one-liners. He plays a self-deprecating actor who recognizes each cliche element of the mystery due to his experience in the theater. It’s a charming gimmick, with the self-aware dialogue inviting the audience to be made conscious of the machinations of the plot without losing their investment in it. Ultimately, the picture isn’t nearly as satisfying as the duo’s followup The Ghost Breakers, which more effectively managed the balance between laughs and scares. Cinematographer Charles B. Lang contributes reliably excellent work–like the aforementioned The Ghost Breakers or the paranormal classic The Uninvited, he revels in the play between light and dark, hiding so much in the shadows that the illuminated areas only feel more vulnerable. A climactic chase scene is the closest the film comes to being genuinely frightening, and it has much to do with the sense of claustrophobia that Lang communicates with both lighting and framing.

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