by Charles Tatum
This 1977 British/Canadian production sports an impressive cast but a very weak set of stories, which I spoil.Peter Cushing, cast against type, plays a grizzled half-crazed writer named Wilbur. He takes his latest book to his publisher, Richards (Ray Milland). Wilbur specializes in writing about phenomena like UFOs and pyramids, and his new book is about cats. Richards has a cat, a white long hair named Sugar, and this upsets Wilbur. The author has concluded that cats are the tool of the devil, and he tells three stories out of his book to prove his point.
The first story takes place in 1912 London. Old Mrs. Malkin (Joan Greenwood) is close to death, and changes her will, leaving her entire estate to her cats instead of her ne'er-do-well nephew, Michael (Simon Williams). Michael is courting Malkin's put-upon servant, Janet (Susan Penhaligon), and she decides to tear up Malkin's will, invalidating it. Malkin catches Janet, and Janet kills her. Mrs. Malkin's cats corner Janet in a pantry, where she is trapped. As the cats partake of Mrs. Malkin, Janet escapes, idiotically going back for the will. Michael stops by after the carnage, and the cats have their revenge.
The second story is set in 1975 Quebec. Lucy (Katrina Holden) has just lost her parents in a plane crash. She and her cat, Wellington, are sent to live with her Aunt Rose (Alexandra Stewart), her husband, and her spoiled daughter Angela (Chloe Franks). Angela begins tormenting Lucy and the cat, not aware of Lucy's late mother's fascination with witchcraft and black magic. Rose tries to get rid of Wellington, but he comes back in time to help Lucy trap Angela, shrinking her down to the size of a mouse. The cat has its revenge.
The final story takes place in 1936 Hollywood. Valentine De'Ath (Donald Pleasence) kills his wife during the shoot of a horror film. His lover, Edina (Samantha Eggar), is trotted in to replace his wife both on set and at his home. The dead wife's cat is still at the house, and the couple tries to get rid of it. After Valentine kills the cat's newborn kittens, the cat travels to the set, and takes its revenge.
Finally, the Wilbur/Richards story wraps up, as Wilbur leaves and Richards sits down to read the book. It seems Sugar has blabbed to the neighborhood felines, and the cats take their revenge.
Cat lovers might not appreciate the pets being portrayed as bloodthirsty predators who take revenge. Movie lovers might not appreciate every segment of the film portraying all cats as bloodthirsty predators who take revenge. The Wilbur/Richards segments work best just because of Milland and Cushing, although the ending is completely predictable. The London segment is best, but there are too many places where the story should have ended. The second Quebec segment is the worst of the lot. The children are terrible actresses, and the dialogue they are given is embarrassing in its complete ignorance of reality. It ends with some really terrible miniature effects that make "The Incredible Shrinking Man" look like "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." The Hollywood segment tries to go for laughs, but there is not too much humor in completely figuring out the final "twist" before the cast does. Flushing some newborn kittens is also a little mean, and not in a black comedy sort of way. The only laugh? Everyone calls Valentine by his initials- V.D.Heroux's direction is standard, not anything special. The musical score is awful, the "wacky" theme in the final segment is grating. Featuring cats as the villains is okay, but making them do the exact same thing in all four stories is a mistake. Do it once, shame on me, do it four times, shame on the film makers. The cast saves this from being a complete disaster, but in the end, I cannot recommend "The Uncanny."
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originally posted: 09/10/15 16:58:59