Monday, January 28, 2013

THE UNCANNY (1977) movie review

Uncanny, The (1977) (1st viewing) d. Heroux, Denis (Canada/UK)

From the producing team of Milton Subotsky (purveyor of those awesome early 70s Amicus anthologies) and Claude Heroux (the man behind such Canuck-horror efforts as Visiting Hours and Of Unknown Origin, as well as David Cronenberg’s The Brood, Scanners and Videodrome) comes a tolerable triptych of terror tales…or should we say tails? Frantic scribbler Peter Cushing appears at the door of publisher Ray Milland with his latest literary effort: a treatise on how the world is secretly ruled by...wait for it...cats. Yup, Cushing is convinced that the felines are running the show, and proceeds to unspool several yarns (or balls thereof) as “evidence,” all of which are entertaining enough but without exception overstay their welcome.

First up is duplicitous maid Susan Penhaglion (veteran of Pete Walker’s The Confessional, the Doug McLure dinosaur pic The Land That Time Forgot, as well as 1977’s Count Dracula starring Louis Jourdan), out to steal her crazy cat lady employer Joan Greenwood’s revised will—the one that leaves everything to the cats, naturally. Bumping off the old hag puts the purring ones on red alert, and Penhaglion finds herself trapped in the larder with much snarling and hissing outside.

Next, sad little orphan girl Katrina Holden and furry friend “Wellington” go to live with some perfectly awful foster parents and their perfectly beastly daughter Chloe Frank, the latter of which spends her time antagonizing the newest member of the family with taunts of “You don’t have a Mummy and Daddy. You don’t have anyone...” Nice, right? Someone should inform the sassy blonde bitch that young Holden is a sassy brunette witch with spells from hell she ain’t afraid to tell. Someone should have also invested in some less dodgy rear projection effects, but hey.

Finally, we come to our final chapter, concerning Hollywood ham Donald Pleasance offing his harridan bride in order to slip the bit on the side (Samantha Eggar) into his latest picture. Problem is, she’s awful. Other problem is, the deceased’s cat is still lurking about the set, causing lighting fixtures to fall, support ropes to slip, and iron maidens to slam shut at the most inopportune moments. Pleasance is entertaining enough, as is Eggar (sporting a deliberately awful Uh-murrican accent), but there’s a lot of filler waiting to get to John Vernon’s inevitable—but choice—final line.

The biggest problem throughout lies in Michel Parry’s excessively padded script, something which the portmanteau-shilling Subotsky should have known a little something about. (Considering Amicus’ anthologies used to burn through four or even five stories in 90 minutes, one can only imagine Uncle Miltie checking his watch a bit.) All in all, not a terrible flick considering its loony premise, plus the wraparound pairing old pros Cushing and Milland is great fun with a nicely twisted payoff.

Watch on YouTube HERE

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