Tagline – The play that startled the world!
Starring – Laura La Plante (Annabelle West), Creighton Hale (Paul Jones), Forrest Stanley (Charles Wilder), Tully Marshall (Roger Crosby).
Released – September, 1927
Directed By – Paul Leni
Produced By – Universal Pictures
Distributed By – Universal Pictures
Description – Millionaire Cyrus West is near death as he lay in his decaying old mansion. His family is there with him, but without the usual sense of impending loss. In fact, their only interest is in just how each of them will fare in regard to an inheritance.
Their display of greed has not escaped the notice of Cyrus who decries that his will remain locked in a safe to be read only on the 20th anniversary of his death. Also in the safe is a second will, that has mysteriously appeared, which may only be opened should the terms of the first will not be met.
How did this second will get into the safe? According to the belief of Mammy Pleasant, the mansion’s caretaker, it was put there by the ghost of Cyrus West.
Twenty years have passed and West’s greedy relatives arrive for a midnight reading of the will. The group include nephews Harry Blythe, Charlie Wilder, and Paul Jones, along with Paul’s sister Susan and her daughter Cecily. Also there for the reading is Cyrus’s niece Annabelle West.
The will is read and the fortune, including a collection of diamonds, has been left to the only relative remaining with the last name of West. That would be Annabelle. However, there is a catch. Annabelle must be judged sane by a doctor, if not, the fortune will go to the unnamed heir in the second will.
That evening, as Annabelle and the disappointed relatives prepare for dinner, a guard barges in to announce that a lunatic, called the Cat, has escaped from confinement and is on the mansions grounds, or already in the house. The guard tells the group that the Cat is a maniac who believes he is a cat and tears his victims apart like they were canaries.
Cyrus West’s lawyer Roger Crosby, who read the will, is afraid that a family member may try to hurt Annabelle. He decides to tell her the name of the second will’s heir. But, before he can speak the name, a hairy hand with long fingernails reaches out from behind a bookcase and pulls him in. Annabelle is terrified and when she informs the family of what happened they believe her to be insane.
Later the same evening, while trying to sleep and wearing a diamond necklace, the hand again emerges from the wall behind her bed and grabs the necklace. Again the terrified Annabelle informs the family of what has happened, and again they believe her claim to be proof of her insanity.
However, a search of her room reveals a hidden passage in the wall. Behind the passage is found the body of Roger Crosby.
Who is responsible for the apparent murder and is the lunatic known as the Cat in the house, or perhaps the killer is a member of the family?
NOTABLE: The Cat and the Canary enjoyed a great deal of success on Broadway, opening February, 1922 in New York and running for 148 performances.
Director Paul Leni and Charles D. Hall designed and fabricated the Gothic sets. Hall would later design both the sets for Dracula and Frankenstein.
Though not itself a horror film, The Cat and the Canary had a profound effect on the horror genre and was even cited as an influencing the work of Alfred Hitchcock.