The Uncanny – Canada | UK, 1977

‘They prowl by night… lusting for human flesh!’

The Uncanny is a 1977 Canadian-British horror anthology feature film directed by Denis Héroux (Naked Massacre) from a screenplay written by Michel Parry (Xtro). Claude Héroux (Videodrome; Scanners) and René Dupont (Murder by Decree) produced.

The Cinévidéo-Tor Productions movie stars Peter Cushing, Samantha Eggar, Ray Milland, Susan Penhaligon, Donald Pleasence, Alexandra Stewart and John Vernon.

The soundtrack score was composed by Wilfred Josephs (Dark Places; Cry of the Banshee; The Deadly Bees; Die! Die! My Darling!).

Severin Films is releasing The Uncanny on Blu-ray + DVD on May 28, 2019, newly scanned in high definition from an inter-negative recently discovered in a London vault. The release features new artwork by Mark Maddox. Special features:

  • Interview with actress Susan Penhaligon
  • Trailer

Plot:

In 1977, in Montreal, writer Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) visits his publisher Frank Richards (Ray Milland) to discuss his new book about cats. Wilbur believes that felines are supernatural creatures, and that they are the devil in disguise. Wilbur tells three tales to illustrate his theory:

1912, London: Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) is a wealthy woman who rewrites her will leaving her fortune to her cats rather than to her nephew Michael (Simon Williams). Her maid Janet (Susan Penhaligon), also the mistress of Michael, steals one copy of the will from the lawyer’s briefcase and tries to destroy the original copy which is kept in the safe. When Miss Malkin catches her, Janet smothers her to death with a pillow. The cats take vengeance…

1975, Province of Quebec: Orphan Lucy (Katrina Holden) goes to live with her aunt Mrs. Blake (Alexandra Stewart), her husband (Donald Pilon), and her cousin Angela (Chloe Franks) after the death of her parents in a plane crash. Lucy brings her only friend, the cat Wellington, but her mean cousin forces her parents to get rid of Wellington. Lucy uses her mother’s book of witchcraft to avenge Wellington.

1936, Hollywood: Actor Valentine De’ath (Donald Pleasence) replaces the blade of a fake pendulum to kill his actress wife (Catherine Bégin), and give his young mistress and aspiring actress (Samantha Eggar) a chance. His wife’s cat avenges her death…

Reviews:

” …each of its trio of tales is as weak as the others. It’s a dubious distinction, but it’s also about the only distinction to be had by this trilogy of the terrible. Under pressure and forced to choose, you could perhaps describe the last segment as the most entertaining (or perhaps the least intolerable), merely because Donald Pleasence is on hand…” AllMovie

“Any problems with fake-looking paws, miniaturised people seeming to change scale shot by shot, or bright red paint being used as blood could be excused if the acting was first rate. Unfortunately, the only thespians earning their Canadian dollars are Cushing and Milland, and they’re not in any of the actual stories.” British Horror Films

“Sure the budget is embarrassing, the writing stale and the scares as tame as a saucer of milk, but the film incorporates just enough unusual elements to remain memorable.” Canuxploitation!

“A grisly horror compendium, very much a curate’s egg with variable special effects: the thirs story is the best, helped by a lively, over-the-top performance by Pleasence.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

“The biggest problem throughout lies in Michel Parry’s excessively padded script, something which the portmanteau-shilling Subotsky should have known a little something about […] All in all, not a terrible flick considering its loony premise, plus the wraparound pairing old pros Cushing and Milland is great fun with a nicely twisted payoff. ” Aaron Christensen, Horror 101 with Dr. AC

” …what the film lacks in an unscary premise and routine stories, the first episode at least makes up for in the ferocity of the attack on Susan Penhaligon. The second story, when it gets Chloe Franks down to miniature size, takes on a sudden effectiveness, despite the wavering quality of back projection effects, leading up to a wonderfully yeccch ending. The third episode is the weakest…” Richard Scheib, Moria

The Uncanny is certainly predictable and rote more often than it’s not, even right down to the frame story’s ending (Milland is surrounded by cats, so you can guess how that goes). Still, Cushing is giving his all to the absurd role of a man who is unusually spooked by cats and truly believes them to be an insidious cabal that runs the show…” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

“Yet another horror anthology from producer Milton Subotsky, and by this time he was either running out of decent material or basic inspiration, because even at half an hour or so for each of the three stories contained herein, they came across as flimsy and overstretched.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

Denis Héroux gives Samantha Eggar direction

The Uncanny was sabotaged by its basic premise before a frame of film had even been shot. Despite what the gravelly voice-over for the trailer suggested, cats are not actually as menacing as ‘great white sharks or ravenous grizzly bears’ and Héroux’s perfunctory direction was never going to appear to make them so.” John Hamilton, X-Cert: The British Independent Horror Film: 1971 – 1983, Hemlock Books, 2014

Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Cast and characters:

  • Peter Cushing … Wilbur
  • Ray Milland … Frank Richards
  • Joan Greenwood … Miss Malkin (segment “London 1912”)
  • Roland Culver … Wallace (segment “London 1912”)
  • Susan Penhaligon … Janet (segment “London 1912”)
  • Simon Williams … Michael (segment “London 1912”)
  • Alexandra Stewart … Mrs. Blake (segment “Quebec Province 1975”)
  • Donald Pilon … Mr. Blake (segment “Quebec Province 1975”)
  • Chloe Franks … Angela (segment “Quebec Province 1975”)
  • Katrina Holden Bronson … Lucy (segment “Quebec Province 1975”) (as Katrina Holden)
  • Renée Girard … Mrs. Maitland (segment “Quebec Province 1975”)
  • Donald Pleasence … Valentine De’ath (segment “Hollywood 1936”)
  • Samantha Eggar … Edina (segment “Hollywood 1936”)
  • John Vernon … Pomeroy (segment “Hollywood 1936”)
  • Catherine Bégin … Madeleine (segment “Hollywood 1936”)
  • Jean LeClerc … Barrington (segment “Hollywood 1936”)
  • Sean McCann … Inspector (segment “Hollywood 1936”)

Filming locations:

Production began in Montreal on 16 November 1976.

89 minutes | 1.85: 1 | Mono

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