• Classic Horrors Club

Countdown to Halloween: "U" is for The Uncanny (1977)

Although one of its producers is Milton Subotsky, it’s not an Amicus Production. Nevertheless, The Uncanny (1977) would fit nicely among the studio’s horror anthologies. A Canadian/British co-production, the movie was made three years after Amicus had transitioned from anthologies to adventure films like The Land that Time Forgot (1974) and At the Earth’s Core (1976.)


The “wrap-around,” or framing, story, for The Uncanny is all about Wilbur, a terrified author played by Peter Cushing, who visits his publisher, Frank Richards (Ray Milland), with a briefcase full of evidence to prove his theory that the feline species has exploited the human race for centuries. Richards is reluctant to publish Wilbur’s book because of the inauthenticity of his claims.


With his corroborating evidence, Wilbur tells Richards three stories that he naturally challenges. As the number of cats milling around outside Richards’s home increases, and Richards himself owns a cat that gives Wilbur the evil eye, the ultimate conclusion will probably not surprise anyone. Nevertheless, it’s well executed. The fun comes from the three stories.


In London 1912, an elderly woman named Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) rewrites her will to leave everything to her cats, “the only ones who have been loyal to me all these years.” This does not please the former heir, her nephew, Michael (Simon Williams), who manipulates the maid (and his lover), Janet (Susan Penhaligon), to remove the new will from her safe and destroy it.


The new heirs are not happy about this and keep clawing at her hands when she drops the will on the floor. They eventually gang up on her and she seeks refuge in the pantry where her biggest enemy, it seems, will be her hunger. This is a gruesome story and, even though the cats are merely taking revenge for the death of their mistress, what they do after that is truly horrifying.


In Quebec Province 1975, a young girl named Lucy (Katrina Holden Bronson, adopted daughter of Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland) goes to live with her Aunt’s family after her parents are killed in a place crash. The Blake women, mother (Alexandra Stewart) and daughter, Angela (Chloe Frank), are rotten to the core. You know Lucy is going to take action against them and you hope it’s going to be nasty.


When her aunt takes Lucy’s beloved cat, Wellington, to a place in town where they do “it” quietly and painlessly, and Angela uses a remote-controlled airplane to dive bomb her, Lucy uses one of her dead mother’s books on witchcraft to teach Angela a lesson. It’s the most fantastical of the stories, with a little bit of The Incredible Shrinking Man thrown in for good measure.


In Hollywood 1936, Donald Pleasance has a grand time playing a horror actor named Valentine De’ath, who arranges an “accident” on set that kills his leading lady, who also happens to be his wife. He’s been having an affair with her stand-in, Edina (Samantha Eggar) whom he convinces producer Pomeroy (John Vernon) to cast in her place. His wife’s pet cat, though, knows what’s up and wants to avenge her death.


This is the funniest of the stories and I probably enjoyed it the most. Writer Michael Parry uses clever plays on words to accent the humor, such as, “What was it that killed the cat? Curiosity?” and “What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?” However, Tweety Bird was not created until 1942, so Edina’s, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat,” is out of place and time.


The Uncanny is an unexpectedly strong anthology that I’m glad I finally watched. In the olden days of working in the video stores, it was available on VHS with some of the worst cover art I’d ever seen. Judging that book by its cover, the movie never appealed to me. Luckily, it got a new cover via Mark Maddox and I purchased the Blu-ray. It was well worth it, both inside and out.

Written by Michael Parry

Directed by Denis Heroux

Starring Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Susan Penhaligon, Katrina Holden Bronson, Donald Pleasance, Samantha Eggar, John Vernon RT 89 min.

Home Video Severin (Blu-ray)

Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.

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