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The Uncanny [Peter Cushing, Ray Milland]

The Uncanny (1977) starring Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasance, Samatha Eggar

The Uncanny is an anthology movie. Writer Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) is an eccentric writer who has written a novel. He’s trying to convince his agent (Ray Milland) to publish his latest, about — cats! He documents his thesis that household cats are intelligent, in control, and murderous when necessary. This serves as the framing device for three horror stories about the murderous cats.

Review

In short, The Uncanny is three different short horror films, all with the same theme: cats are evil! The three films are:

  1. London 1912 – an rich, elderly woman changes her will. She cuts her spendthrift nephew out of the will, and is leaving her fortune to her cats. The nephew’s girlfriend, however, is a maid in the house. She steals one copy of the will, and tries steal the second. In the process, she’s discovered, and in a panic, kills the widow. And the cats get revenge on both her & the nephew.
  2. Quebec 1975 – a young girl is orphaned, and goes to live with her relatives. Her only companion is her cat, Wellington. And her books on black magic and the occult. And her nasty cousin comes to regret teasing her at every opportunity.
  3. Hollywood 1936 – A vain Hollywood star murders his wife, and has her stand-in — who’s also his mistress — take her place in the horror movie they’re filming. But the dead woman’s cat seeks revenge.

In short, none of the three stories are that compelling. But Donald Pleasence absolutely shines as the vain actor in Hollywood 1936. And the first story, London 1912, is interesting. But it has a scene showing the cats eating the dead, decaying corpse of the rich widow. Unnecessarily gross. Clearly not a film to watch with the children.

Cast of characters

London 1912

  • Susan Penhaligon (The Land That Time Forgot) as Janet the maid. She meets with her boyfriend Michael, and tells him about the new will. Next, he “encourages” her to steal the will. She’s caught, and panics, killing the old woman, smothering her with a pillow. Soon, the cats trap her in a storage closet (seriously) and eventually kill her.
  • Joan Greenwood (Mysterious Island) as Miss Malkin. The rich widow and cat lady. You’d think that her cats would treat her better after she was dead …
  • Roland Culver (The Yellow Rolls Royce) as Wallace, Miss Malkin’s lawyer.
  • Simon Williams (Upstairs, Downstairs) as Michael, the nephew who’s wasted every penny Miss Malkin’s given him so far. The cats deal him justice at the end of the segment.

London 1912

  • Alexandra Stewart (Exodus) as Mrs. Joan Blake. Lucy’s aunt, who brings her into their home. Although she doesn’t like cats. She’s also somewhat stiff, and clearly believes her own daughter … no matter what.
  • Chloe Franks (The House That Dripped Blood) as Angela Blake. Joan’s daughter, who swiftly becomes jealous of Lucy. She also delights in taunting Lucy. Especially after the cat, Wellington, doesn’t want to play with her.
  • Katrina Holden Bronson as Lucy. Her parents have recently died in a plane accident. She’s come to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. And Cousin Angela delights in tormenting her. However, Lucy’s inherited her mother’s books on black magic. And she eventually makes Angela feel … small.

Hollywood 1936

  • Samantha Eggar (Doctor Doolittle) as Edina Hamilton, Valentine’s lover. She’s aware of the murder of Valentine’s wife, and takes her place in the horror movie that they’re shooting. However, she’s not as good an actress.
  • Donald Pleasance as Valentine De’ath. The leading man and star of the horror movie. A total ham — the performance is one of the funniest, and most enjoyable, parts of The Uncanny.

Editorial review of The Uncanny courtesy of Amazon.com

Three Bizarre, hideous murders. Each one unexplainable. Each one a mystery…until now! While the spectre of night falls, an awestruck publisher listens as an author frantically reveals the subject of his latest book. He has compiled indisputable evidence that a series of grisly, unsolved murders were cold-bloodedly committed by creatures with uncanny supernatual powers-“common” household cats!! A parasitic nephew scheming to kill for his Aunt’s fortune, a spoiled girl plotting to evict her orphaned cousin and an evil, cunning actor who disposes of his “inconvenient” wife-all have fallen prey to the cats’ clawed killing frenzy

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