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The Uncanny

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Posted 17th May 2009 at 11:27 AM by Sam@Cult Labs

The Uncanny

The lowly house cat; cherished pet, cute furry fluff ball, loyal companion...

Or are they part of some vicious and malignant plot to destroy humanity as they gather in hairy packs under streetlights, looking for trouble. The rather naff kids film, Cats and Dogs, put forward the proposition of a global feline conspiracy in which Machiavellian moggies plotted man and canine downfall but a small British horror anthology picture made the connection between Tiddles and the downfall of mankind years before. That film is The Uncanny.

A late entry in the UK run of compendium horror flicks more usually produced by Amicus, the film stars a by now rather frail looking Peter Cushing as an author obsessed by the notion that cats are mans mortal enemy, conspiring to murder their owners in various grisly ways. On a dark night the paranoid writer makes a late call on his publisher whose house is shared by a white Persian cat to whom Cushing is inclined to address his rather fanciful stories of feline atrocity. His publisher is naturally sceptical about the three tales Cushing has to offer but listens with incredulity and interest.

The first tale is a Gothic yarn about a withered old aunt, bedridden and cantankerous, who has changed her will, leaving all her riches to her clutter of cats. Her long suffering maid is having an affair with her good for nothing nephew who, on hearing the change of plans, sets his lover a challenge to steal and destroy the will. The withered old lady wakes up while the maid is opening the safe so the young woman smothers her with a pillow, but when she tries to retrieve the will from the floor where it was dropped the cats attack her, forcing her downstairs where they throw themselves off the landing in a series of sharp clawed assaults.

Retreating to the scullery, the maid is trapped for a number of days and reduced to spreading cat meat on stale bread to survive (O cruel irony!). When she plucks up enough courage to go back upstairs she finds that the old woman's face has been eaten by her cute little darlings.

Those pesky cats are cynical bastards aren't they!

A final murderous cat rampage does for the maid, who is left battered and clawed at the foot of the stairs where her dashing but corrupt lover discovers her before meeting a whiskery death moments later...

It's a rather campy tale of feline revenge but the Edwardian setting and the constant close ups of murderous moggies keeps it entertaining throughout with some nasty gore shots towards the end which come as a surprise after the rather mannered and stagey beginning of the segment.

In the second section, a poor little orphan girl is sent to reside with her prim and rather unpleasant aunt who has a truly loathsome daughter who doesn't stop reminding our sad heroine that she is a guest in the house and therefore a lower life form. The orphan girl is very close to her cat, Wellington, a last link to her happier past. The bitchy new stepsister is jealous of the cat so we get lots of scenes of her being nasty to the poor thing and some feeble attempts make her mother believe that it's a menace so it will have to be destroyed by the vet. Of course the cat gets it's ugly revenge on the cruel new family and our shaky author, Cushing, gets another piece of evidence about the true evil nature of cats...

The final piece is far more tongue in cheek than the previous two and stars horror icon Donald Pleasence as Valentine De'ath aka VD,a famous B Movie star who is in the midst of filming "Dungeon of Horror" when his Wife and co-star, dies on the set in a deliberate accident which involve a rather sharp pendulum.

The pet cat is most put out and starts to terrorize Valentine and his lover Edina. Look out for a nice
in joke at the start where a publicity shot of Pleasence in his role as Bond villain Blofeld can be seen in which he's posing with his white cat. The off beat humour of this part of the movie doesn't really sit with the rest of the film but we're not talking high art here so it doesn't badly affect things. It's all fun horror nonsense that will while away a slow evening.

In the grand tradition of anthology pictures the framing story wraps up with a nasty twist in which Cushing meets his predictable end at the paws of a cat (naturally) and fans of other compendium movies like Asylum and Vault of Horror will enjoy this slight but entertaining old movie. Cushing and Pleasence are excellent as usual, with Cushing in particular making the most of his small role in a nervy, paranoid performance. The Uncanny is highly recommended to Hammer fans and cat haters everywhere...

Felinophobics need not apply.
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