(1927) dir. Paul Leni
viewed: 02/14/09 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA
The last of the three of the silent films from the Castro’s mini-fest for Valentine’s Day, The Cat and the Canary was one that I’d been wanting to see for a while, too. It’s one of the oldest of the “old dark house” horror/mystery/comedy genre, and directed by Paul Leni, who had directed The Man Who Laughs (1928) from last year’s Silent Film Festival, it’s got some Expressionist street cred as well.
All told, it’s a pretty loopy little film. “The old dark house” genre is one in which all sorts of strange, evil things seem to be happening, in “an old dark house”, and everybody is weird. In The Cat and the Canary, the story revolves around a will and an inheritance, and a cast of oddball characters. Actually, the funny thing is that this movie reminded me the most of a Tex Avery cartoon, Who Killed Who? (1943), but spoofing a genre that spoofs itself, is comedy in its own horror, seems almost like the same thing. Still funny, actually.
Some of the imagery is quite weird and effective: creepy hands, scary demon faces. And “Mammy Pleasant”, the hilariously inaptly-named housemaid, is a total crack-up with her arch-bizarreness and sullen glares.
It’s quite good fun.