The Uncanny

The Uncanny seems confused about its thesis. I’ll explain later. First, let’s look at what sort of film this is.

The Uncanny is a classic style portmanteau movie of the type that was popular in the 1960s and 1970s. It is part of a wave of those movies that included Tales from the Crypt, The House that Dripped Blood,  The Vault of Horror, and Torture Garden.  These films generally have a wrap-around story that serves to introduce and anchor the proper tales. The Uncanny is no different.

Peter Cushing stars as Wilbur Gray, a writer who has written a book of true stories about cats. He is presenting his tales to a publisher played by Ray Milland. Gray wants the publisher to understand that cats are, in fact, evil supernatural creatures out to kill humans. The publisher is skeptical.

Gray offers three tales. In each, cats are at the center of he story.

The first story deals with a wealthy old woman who has rewritten her will to cut out her nephew and leave most of her fortune to her cats.  The nephew’s girlfriend, Janet,  works as a maid for the old lady and sets forth to murder her and steal the new will. The cats take revenge, killing Janet in a rather gruesome manner.

The second story involves a young girl and her pet cat.  The girl is orphaned and moves in with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Angela. Angela is cruel to the girl and her cat. She forces the parents to get rid of the cat. After the cat returns, the orphan girl uses a spell book to cast magic and take revenge.

In the final tale, an actor played by the great Donald Pleasance (of Halloween fame, among many others) murders his wife by replacing a fake pendulum blade on a movie set with a real blade. Her cat takes revenge on him.

Like many of the sorts of movies, the cast is wonderful.  As well as Cushing, Milland, and Pleasance, the cast features Samantha Eggar, John  Vernon, Joan Greenwood, and Roland Carver. Everyone swings for the fences here.  Pleasance is a real standout. But that is not unexpected. The man brought relish and weight to every role he took.

The stories are okay. There’s nothing special going on here. The Uncanny lacks the mordant humor of The House that Dripped Blood, and the genuine frights of Tales from the Crypt. It manages some fun gore effects, and a few minor thrills. This is second rate entry, really.

Earlier I mentioned that this film seemed a bit confused. The main character posits that cats are evil, then offers these stories as support for that thesis.  The problem is that the cats aren’t actually the villains in any of these stories. Yes, they bring death but it is in service of providing retribution to the actual bad guys. The cats are more akin to a Karmic force here.

-Nathan Tyree