Denis Héroux, 1977
Starring: Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasance, Samantha Eggar, Joan Greenwood
There are a lot of great British anthology horror films, but the cat-themed flick The Uncanny is just not one of them (possibly because it’s from Rank and not Amicus). The most frustrating thing is that it has a lot of potential. Peter Cushing is incredible, as always, as a paranoid conspiracy theory writer trying to push his most recent book on his publisher (played by a subdued Ray Milland). His book is all about how cats are the evil masters of the universe and humanity needs to know this dark secret. He supports this theory with three tales of feline revenge and murder.
The first, "London 1912," is a predictable if pleasingly bloody tale about a stingy old lady who wants to cut her nephew out of her will and leave all her money to the 20-some cats that live in her home. Her maid, who is also her nephew’s mistress, has other ideas. She destroys one copy of the will and steals the other from the woman’s safe during the night. When the old lady wakes up, the maid kills her, but before she can destroy the second and final copy of the will, the cats take revenge. The third, "Quebec Province 1975," is the worst of the three. A little girl is taken in by her stuffy aunt, kind uncle and bratty cousin after her parents die in a plane crash. She brings her only friend, the cat Wellington, and her mother’s books on witchcraft. The spoiled cousin convinces her mother to get rid of the cat, but with a little help from her dead mother’s grimoire, the cat returns to join his human friend in some diabolical revenge.
The third story, "Hollywood 1936," is my favorite and is also the most ridiculous, thanks to a hammy performance from Donald Pleasance who attempts to save the entire film himself. He stars as Hollywood actor Valentine De’ath who kills his wife while they are filming a horror movie. He replaces a rubber guillotine with a real blade in order to have her replaced with her stand in and his lover, a much younger woman (Samantha Eggar). The mistress quickly moves into De’ath’s home and his wife’s place, but her loyal cat has other ideas.
“Hollywood 1936” almost makes this film worth seeing, thanks to Pleasance and Eggar, but otherwise there are a lot of things about The Uncanny to dislike. Though the premise is that cats are evil, in all of these segments, the cats kill unlikeable characters who deserve to die. Except Peter Cushing. Another issue is that it is difficult to make cats seem scary, so there are a lot of shots of cats looking at the camera. Boredom ensues. Somehow this was initially given an X-rating, but I don’t know what movie the censors saw. It wasn’t The Uncanny, which only gets a little bloody in the first segment, but otherwise the often funny violence is only implied. There is no sexual content, other than a great scene where Pleasance and Eggar, newly liberated from De’ath’s wife, sit in bed and Pleasance cops a feel for the entire scene. De’ath is also a total bastard to the cat, tormenting it and flushing its kittens down the toilet.
This will likely appeal to British horror and Cushing completists, though there are definitely some laughs to be had for lovers of trash movies. I really can’t believe this has so many notable actors in it and was oddly written by Michel Parry, who went on to pen the incredible Xtro (1983). If you feel the need to see The Uncanny, it’s only available as a region 2 PAL U.K. DVD. If you have a need to know more about horror films with cats, check out Horror Cats. I personally detest cat people and looking at cats on the internet all day, but there seems to be a big following for some reason.