Trapped in a Mansion in the Middle of Nowhere with a Psycho: The Cat and the Canary (1939)


“Trapped in a mansion in the middle of nowhere with a Psycho.”

This movie was sooooo good!

I saw it at the library when we were reorginizing and it sounded really interesting-a will, multiple people inheriting and fighting each other, locked in a house in the middle of nowhere, starring Paulette Goddard, Edith Head did the costumes, and it was early Bob Hope-so hopefully he won’t be too silly.

I have to watch it.

So the film is based off a play and it is one of those horror comedies that spoof horror films-you know like Arsenic and Old Lace or One Body Too Many.

Cyrus Norman was an eccentric millionaire, who insanity ran in his family. He passed away and determined that ten years from that date on midnight the will, will be read. They never say why-but I believe that he wanted certain family members dead, like in Mystery of the 13th Guest

10 years in this movie.

The night has came and the lawyer, Crosby arrives by canoe to the mansion, he will be stuck there until the next day as no boats run after midnight. Trapped like in House on Haunted Hill.

Haunted house!

Crosby goes there and is greeted by the creepiest housekeeper ever. She’s like Mrs. Danvers, Nancy, and Milly rolled into one. This is set in the Louisiana Bayou and she talks about talking to her master, and spirits, and roams the house soundlessly with a black cat. Just an uber creeper!

SUPER creeped

Crosby goes to where the will was stashed and finds not one, but TWO wills!

Hmm…interesting.

Hmmm…

The family starts showing up, all second and third cousins twice removed. We have two older sisters (40-50s age range) Cicily and Aunt Susan who arrive. Both are very unhappy to be out in the swamp-Susan is the older one, loud, aggressive, domineering-while Cicily is sweet, submissive, ad nervous.

Hmm…

Then the men arrive: Fred Blythe, grouchy and sarcastic; Charlie Wilder (Douglas Montgomery), handsome ladies man; and Wally Campbell (Bob Hope), actor, funnyman, and nervous talker. This part was actually created for him, an addition to the play.

They settle in for the will reading, yet there is one left-Joyce Norman (Paulette Goddard). Fred is in love with Joyce and tells all the others to back off of her. Charlie and Joyce used to have a thing but haven’t seen each other in years-he trying to ignite the flame again. And Wally and Joyce were friends when they were younger, he was always trying to help her out or protect her (secret crush).

More like a quadrilateral

The will is read with all the money going to the ones who have the last name Norman. That being only Joyce-she inherits everything.

Except there is one caveat. This family is rife with mental illness-if Joyce should  succumb to mental illness in one month or die-the money will go to another person in the other will.

What are you talking about??

That seems like an awful thing to do-the relatives are going to try and make her be declared insane, drive her insane, or kill her. What was he thinking!!!!!

I guess maybe he thought that there would be more heirs, but still-this seems to be a horrible idea.

So all are happy for Joyce, except Aunt Susan who immediately starts psychoanalyzing her-and Charlie who starts trying to reignite the flames and get her interested in him again-really. She just got the money. 

All have the stay in the house overnight together-and then things start taking a dark turn.

The creepy voodoo housekeeper gives Joyce a private message. Joyce then goes to get ready for bed when there is a knock on the door. It is a guard from the asylum down the way who has arrived to let them know that a manic got loose. The maniac has long claws and is called “The Cat”. He warns them to lock the doors and windows and he is going to check the bayou.

So we have crazy relatives, a million dollars, a creepy housekeeper, and an escapee from the insane asylum-things are getting good.

I have to watch it.

Meanwhile, Cosby has discovered something when searching through the files. He goes to tell Joyce, but before he can get the words out-he is kidnapped by someone who creeped through a secret passage.

Yes this house is full of secret passages, has a portrait with eyes that someone can watch you through, and was one of the influences of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Yep, it’s that cool.

Someone’s creeping on Joyce…but who?

Joyce and Wally end up pairing up as he wants to hep her, and they discover a note about Cyrus’ hidden treasure-emerald and diamond necklace-that is on the property. They have to find the treasure, survive the night, and keep Joyce from being driven crazy by her family, and safe from the Cat.

This was an amazing film with great dialogue. I love the pace of the ’30s and ’40s films with such quick and pithy banter. This was just wonderful, I loved every minute of it and it didn’t disappoint. I highly recommend this and can watch it over and over.

For more on Haunted Houses, go to Creepy Demon Mask & Haunted Hampstead Heath House of Horrors!

For more hidden treasure, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: Cat Burglar Black

For more Horror-Comedy, go to What Do They Want You For? Murder: Silver Streak (1976)

 

3 thoughts on “Trapped in a Mansion in the Middle of Nowhere with a Psycho: The Cat and the Canary (1939)

  1. Hhmmm…. Sounds interesting. I love old movies and really like “Arsenic and Old Lace” which you mentioned.

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