Color, 1977, 88 mins. 43 secs.
Directed by Denis Héroux
Starring Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Joan Greenwood, Donald Pleasence, Samantha Eggar, John Vernon, Roland Culver, Susan Penhaligon, Simon Williams, Alexandra Stewart, Donald Pilon, Chloe Franks, Katrina Holden
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC)/ WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Carlton (DVD) (UK R2 PAL), e-m-s- (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1)

With The UncannyBritish company Amicus officially The Uncannyretiring from the horror anthology business with From Beyond the Grave in 1974, a few other brave souls tried to replicate the formula with one half of the Amicus founding team, New York-born Milton Subotsky, chiming in with two of the more memorable copycats: The Monster Club in 1981 and a peculiar cat-crazy collection, The Uncanny, produced in Canada in 1977. That latter film has stayed mostly under the radar in the United States due to a lack of a legitimate theatrical release (shuffled off to an airing on CBS instead in 1980) and a general lack of availability ever since. This would also prove to be the final directorial effort for Denis Héroux, who kicked off the maple softcore trend in the early '70s with L'Initiation and Valérie before heading into a lucrative film and TV producing career including Atlantic City and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Very entertaining and more than a little nuts, The Uncanny is a worthy entry in the lineage of feline fear films among the likes of Eye of the Cat, Cat's Eye, and Night of a Thousand Cats, to name just a few. Like those films, it also tries to exploit some kind of cat phobia while actually proving that the real evildoers are human beings, with cats actually proving to be loyal, resourceful, and intelligent. Of course, any cat owner could tell you that already.

The framing device this time features a paranoid writer named Wilbur (Cushing) scurrying through the streets with a manuscript in hand to see his publisher, Frank (Milland), who dotes on his beautiful white Persian cat, Sugar. Wilbur claims that he has hard, solid proof that cats are secretly in control of mankind and trying The Uncannyto mastermind some sort of plot to The Uncannykeep it all quiet, which Frank brushes off as pure fantasy. Ignoring the fact that cats would probably do a better job of governing humanity than people themselves, Wilbur proceeds to spin out three tales from different locations and time periods to prove that cats... well, don't like people screwing with their owners, apparently. First up in "London 1912," wealthy and elderly Miss Malkin (Greenwood) has decided to write a new will cutting out her nephew, Michael (Williams), who's squandered every cent she's given him. Instead she's giving her fortune to her many cats, apparently learning no lessons at all from The Aristocats. Michael decides to enlist his girlfriend, housemaid Janet (Penhaligon), to break into the bedroom safe to get the will while the mistress is sleeping, but of course things go horribly wrong and the kitties prove to have a far bloodier wrath than either of the schemers could have possibly anticipated. Then in "Quebec Province 1975," young orphan Lucy (Holden) goes to live in her aunt's household along with her pet black cat, Wellington. Unfortunately Lucy's jealous and very nasty cousin, Angela (Franks, who starred in a not dissimilar tale in The House that Dripped Blood), wants Wellington out of the picture and convinces her parents to ditch the kitty The Uncannyout in the middle of nowhere. Of course the fluffy protector finds his way back, and on top of that, Lucy happens to have a book of black magic spells from her mother The Uncannythat's going to come in very handy. Finally in "Hollywood 1936," the gloriously named Valentine De'ath (Pleasence) is an arrogant movie star who connives to bump off his wife and force his current producer (Vernon) to arrange a starring role for dimwitted mistress Edina (Eggar). Valentine's distaste for his late wife's cat and her current litter of newborns proves to be one step too far, however, as he seriously miscalculates the lengths a pet will go to for vengeance.

Though it's obviously nowhere near the level of Amicus in its prime, The Uncanny has some nice pulpy thrills throughout with the first story in particular delivering some grisly shocks (with Penhaligon in particular drenched in blood for much of her screen time). Obviously the top-billed Cushing and Milland could play their roles in their sleep but they still deliver the goods, while Pleasence gives the juiciest performance as a foul creature who gets everything that's coming to him (including a sick joke punchline later reprised on the horror anthology show Darkroom). Cat lovers in particular will get a kick out of this one as the framing device features Cushing repeatedly affirming that cats are totally evil, something that's hard to reconcile with the dozens of scene-stealing, four-legged performers on display (who get tossed at some of the actors now and then but always have a good reason). The Uncanny

The UncannyAs mentioned above, this one has gotten little respect over the years despite its spectacular cast and obvious appeal for classic horror fans. The easiest way to see this for years was the 2002 DVD release from Carlton in the U.K., which first appeared in a flat letterboxed transfer as a standalone and part of a three pack with Hands of the Ripper and The Monster (a.k.a. The Devil Within Her) and was then reissued in 2006 when the label changed over to Network. In 2019, Severin Films brought the film into U.S. circulation on Blu-ray and DVD with options including a limited slipcover edition and a limited bundle with two art prints. The HD transfer is a substantial improvement advertised as a new scan "from an inter-negative discovered in a London vault," presented in as-is condition with some minor damage here and there (the biggest during the opening Rank Organisation logo) and a couple of cigarette burns indicating a print used for at least a portion of it. The DTS-HD MA English mono track is also in perfectly listenable if somewhat "vintage" condition, with optional English SDH subtitles provided. In addition to the theatrical trailer, the disc also features a new interview with Penhaligon, "The Cat's Victim" (11m47s), about her career path to this film (including a stint on Subotsky's The Land That Time Forgot) and her memories of the film including the kind, welcoming Cushing, the slathering of cat food to get her co-stars to jump on her, and her reunion with Williams after Upstairs, Downstairs. Watch it with your favorite furry friend.

Reviewed on May 13, 2019.