Release Date(s)1977 (May 28, 2019)
Studio(s)The Rank Organisation (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: D+
After the producing team of Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, the men behind Amicus Productions (which was known for its portmanteau genre films), split up after several years in business together, they both went off in separate directions, producing their own material to varying degrees of success. Among them is 1977’s The Uncanny, which continued the anthological horror cycle with Subotsky attempting to recapture former glories like Tales from the Crypt and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, but failing in terms of overall quality.
In the film, an uneasy writer (Peter Cushing) delivers the manuscript for his latest book to his publisher (Ray Milland). Reluctant to print it, he is then told three stories from the book which all revolve around the idea of cats being vindictive and evil beings.
The first story tells of the bed-ridden Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) who is willing her fortunes to her many feline companions. Her maid Janet (Susan Penhaligon) attempts to retrieve the will in order to destroy it at the insistence of Miss Malken’s son Michael, who has been written out of the will altogether. Unfortunately for Janet, the cats are fully aware of this and won’t stand for it.
In the second story, a young girl named Lucy is newly-orphaned after her parents are tragically killed in an accident. Left with nothing but her loyal cat Wellington, she goes to stay with her aunt (Alexandra Stewart) and her cousin Angela, both of whom take an instant dislike to both her and Wellington. Little do they know that Lucy and her mother’s interest in black magic will be of valuable importance when the seemingly sweet Angela’s teasing and bullying goes too far.
In the third and final story, a classically-trained actor (Donald Pleasance) kills his wife on the set of his latest horror film in order to win the affections of her stand-in (Samantha Eggar). Attempting to continue their relationship with obvious blood on their hands, his dead wife’s cat will now see to it that both of them get their just desserts.
Despite the star talent, each of these stories are fairly bland, save for a handful of creative instances, such as the second story when Angela is shrunken to mouse size. Avoiding oversized obstacles like a splash of hot wax from a burning candle, a mouse trap set for kill, and an unfriendly feline giant, it’s one of the film’s more entertaining moments. The third entry, which is the most tongue-in-cheek of all, not only offers plenty of winks to the horror films of the day, but also features a moment involving a basket of kittens that is so blatantly awful that it’s funny.
Unfortunately for the film’s pace, the first story is the least interesting of the three, particularly because it feels uninspired and, what I would describe as, “first draft.” There’s a very obvious story direction taking place when the plot gets going, and the film doesn’t pick it up, taking all of the fun out of being a horror anthology and wasting the audience’s time with a poor ending. Without spoilers, the unused twist involves cat food and the eating of it. Sadly, I can’t say more.
Above all else, The Uncanny feels cheap and highly uneven. It could certainly have used another story, or even a beef up of the first two to make it a more palatable experience. The scares are next to nil, but there are some brief sparks of enjoyment to be had, low grade though they may be.
Severin Films brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time with a transfer that has been “scanned from an internegative recently discovered in a London vault.” The presentation is a naturally film-like one, but full of wear and tear, including scratches, speckling, instability, splices, edge damage, light leaks, and exposure issues. However, most of this damage is prevalent during the first reel and evens out thereafter. Grain is well-managed, as is color, which offers a nice selection of hues, some bolder than others. Detail is sometimes lost in the darker areas of the frame, meaning that blacks can sometimes be crushed, but this seems to be more inherent in the original cinematography more so than the transfer. Everything is bright and well-defined, even if the materials aren’t as crisp or as clean as they could be with access to better elements.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Like its video counterpart, the audio is plagued with leftover damage, including hiss, pops, and one or two dropouts. However, it’s not totally unlistenable. Dialogue is always clearly heard, even with the minor changes in treble from time to time, while the score and sound effects are thin. Nothing is ever distorted and the flaws feels natural to the overall presentation at hand.
The extras are brief, but they include a video-sourced trailer for the film and The Cat’s Victim, a 12-minute interview with actress Susan Penhaligon who describes her experiences making the film, including how wonderful Peter Cushing was and what it was like working with Joan Greenwood.
Long overdue for a high definition debut, The Uncanny comes to Blu-ray in decent quality. It’s certainly not one of the finest horror anthologies ever made, but completists will definitely want to have it sitting on their shelves.
– Tim Salmons