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The Uncanny (1977)

Coming nearer the end of Peter Cushing’s career is one of Milton Subotsky’s final anthology horror films, The Uncanny. This Canadian made production filmed partly in Montreal has been fairly well panned over the years. Rightly? Maybe but I’m never one to jump all over films here on line at Mike’s Take. I may poke fun at them but much prefer to look for positives and there are two major ones here that might have been overlooked to the general public as time has passed with the film’s reputation coming off as less than stellar.

I’m referring to the wonderful performances by Peter Cushing as a scared to death writer who jumps at the slightest appearance of a kitty cat while trying to prove they are aligned with the devil and secondly the performance of Donald Pleasence. Pleasence is absolutely hilarious as he intentionally slices the ham rather thick in the final stanza of this trio of tales narrated by Peter that should leave us all believing the cat next door or perhaps the one you live with is indeed in league with the devil.

Cushing stars this time out as a researcher who is convinced that cats are intent on ruling the world. “We let them prowl around just as they please.” He has put together a large manuscript with various stories to prove his theories and takes them to publisher Ray Milland. A cat fancier himself which gives Peter the opportunity to mug for the camera at various times over the next 85 minutes as he states his case to the one time Oscar winner. It’s around the fire place in Milland’s swank home that Peter will tell us three tales designed to prove his theories concerning our feline friends.

Story Number 1.

The classic tale of a wealthy older woman (Joan Greenwood) who has cats running rampant throughout her house. Sounds like she has no family members left to pass on her wealth to other than a free spending nephew who isn’t worthy of the cash and property so she has her will changed to leave everything to her furry friends.  Unbeknownst to her the maid who works as her caretaker is also her nephew’s mistress and if they are to inherit the money then the new will is going to have to disappear. Murder, and bloody attacks are to follow via the sharpened claws of the cute little kitties that occupy the mansion who are getting hungry by the time Peter’s tale comes to an end. Along with Miss Greenwood, Roland Culver, Simon Williams and Susan Penhaligon star.

Cushing is getting a might jumpy by this time with Ray’s cat looking at him with an evil twinkle in it’s eye.

Story Number 2.

When a young girl is orphaned and taken in by her Aunt, Uncle and domineering cousin, she isn’t quite as welcome as she’d like to be when she arrives with her black cat, the one remaining constant she has after a life altering tragedy. Auntie is quickly to become the wicked step mother and her older, much bigger cousin is a bully and all around spoiled brat. Nellie Olson comes to mind if you recall the name. The young girl played by Katrina Holden Bronson has also brought along some of her late mother’s books on witchcraft which is the tell tale sign where this stanza is headed. When Auntie attempts to have the black cat euthanized, our little girl hits the books and sets about to do away with her evil cousin who has pushed her too far with the use of the pentagram and some black magic. “You’re not such a big girl anymore, are you, Angela? Why, you’re no bigger than a mouse! Alexandra Stewart, Chloe Franks and Donald Pilon join young Miss Bronson in the story.

Now we move onto the third and by far the most enjoyable tale of kitty carnage thanks to Donald Pleasence’s turn as a 1930’s Hollywood star in the tradition of Vincent Price.

Story Number 3

Donald is about to star in the latest horror film from producer John Vernon and while filming the pit and pendulum scene, the swinging blade turns out to be all too real and the leading lad meets an ill timed fate. Turns out she was Donald’s wife and he isn’t the least bit broken up. As a matter of fact he already has a replacement in mind with Samantha Eggar who just happens to be his mistress as well. Maybe that on set accident wasn’t so accidental? Back at his Hollywood home, Donald would like nothing better than to get rid of his wife’s cat and goes to war with the feline after ridding the world of the cat’s kittens. Off camera I should add. Back to the studio where Donald hams it up on a set meant to resemble a torture chamber that includes an Iron Maiden like contraption that he will have to place Miss Eggar in. Perhaps a little rehearsing might help her performance along. Perhaps but when a certain cat shows up on set, things are bound to get messy and Vernon’s line at the end is a classic everyday saying that takes on new meanings. “Cat got your tongue.”

Like most of the anthology films put together over at Amicus by Subotsky and then partner Max Rosenberg this one will come back to be wrapped up in the present with Ray and Peter that gives both actors a bit more screen time to leave us all pondering if there was in fact some truth to Peter’s ravings.

I had a great time watching Peter and Donald in this one and couldn’t help but get a charge out of our own cat, Vincent, strolling in to the room at the fadeout. Seeing the film on DVD for the first time in what has surely been twenty plus years afforded me the opportunity to share it with Number 2 son Kirk who I have been telling for years that our cat is evil and Peter Cushing proved it on film. He just needs to see it.

Mission accomplished.

So please ignore all those naysayers and check this one out for Dear Peter’s energetic mugging and Donald’s winking at the camera with tongue in cheek. That is until the cat gets it.

5 Comments »

  1. This really isn’t a good film but it does have certain charms. I went ad ought a copy when it came out even though I”d already seen it and knew its weaknesses. The cast of old-timers is a real boon. There is something deeply satisfying about watching guys like Cushing, Pleasence and Milland putting in the effort to entertain even though they know full well the material is frankly poor. Genuine professionals, and it’s never a waste of time to spend some of it in their company.

  2. I remember this one! I’ve always thought that if it were made 10 years earlier with the same cast and a different writer (or writers), it would have been a lot better. Still, it’s good to see a review that doesn’t go for the jugular right out of the gate. 😀

    • Yeah it came at the end of this style of horror film from the “old guard”. Also doesn’t have as broad a cast as some of Subotsky’s earlier films for Amicus but I’ll tale Peter and Donald in anything like this. Next one I think was Monster Club in 1981 and it’s better than this one but would have been nice if Peter had joined in as well.

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