Blu-ray Review: The Cat and the Canary (1927)

Over the past five years, I’ve been introduced to a number of Paul Leni’s silent classics, a filmmaker whose style was decades ahead of its time. One example of the director’s innovation is seen in his tendency to blend genres, namely horror and comedy, with his most prominent example, The Cat and the Canary available now on Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment.

Twenty years after his passing, the relatives of millionaire Cyrus West gather at his decrepit mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The spooky and impressive abode plays host to the group carrying out the dying instructions of the deceased, to read out his last will. As the night approaches a potent combination of greed, an unseen stranger, and one escaped lunatic has everyone jumping at shadows.

You could press play on just about any horror movie made in the last ninety-odd years and find at least some trace amount of influence attributed to The Cat and the Canary, all the way from William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill, to modern ‘whodunnits’ like Knives Out. Even the silent classic’s comedic stylings have reached just as far, inspiring the likes of Mel Brooks and animated staples like Scooby-Doo. Of course, there’s a fine line between the sinister and silly which Leni manages to balance remarkably well. Terrifying imagery, which some viewers will no doubt connect to sleep paralysis is often offset with slapstick physical reactions from our players, who are all highly expressive, due to the absence of sound.

West’s mansion in all its abstract glory is very much a character of its own. From the outset there’s a feeling that viewers, and our leads, are not just guests in an ‘old dark house’, but rather a someone’s psyche that’s manifested within the building’s walls, corridors, and hidden spaces. The film’s uniquely detailed set design and limited lighting are instrumental in creating such a tangible atmosphere leading to disorientation and anxiety over innocuous incidents such as the touch of a hand.


  • Limited edition O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys [2000 copies]
  • Brand new audio commentary by author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
  • Brand new audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
  • Mysteries Mean Dark Corners – brand new video essay by David Cairns & Fiona Watson
  • Pamela Hutchinson on The Cat and the Canary – brand new interview with writer and film critic Pamela Hutchinson
  • Phuong Le on The Cat and the Canary – brand new interview with film critic Phuong Le
  • A Very Eccentric Man & Yeah, a Cat! – extracts from John Willard’s original play
  • Lucky Strike – Paul Leni gives a full-throated endorsement to the product that got him through filming The Cat and the Canary
  • A collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Richard Combs, Craig Ian Mann, and Imogen Sara Smith

If you were unfamiliar with The Cat and the Canary prior to making this purchase, you’ll be more than an expert on the silent-age classic after listening to and watching the supplements on this disc. Both commentary tracks are conversational with trivia about cast and crew woven throughout. As such, viewers feel part of the discussions rather than students in a lecture.

David Cairns and Fiona Watson’s video essay is creatively edited, and more than simply a “rundown” of information on the film. The almost 30-minute-long featurette breezes by as re-enacted quotes from those who worked on the Cat and the Canary help break up the well-researched article. Pamela Hutchinson and Phuong Le rehash some details in the aforementioned essay, but their separate interviews are nonetheless informative and they come off as obvious fans of the film. – by Hannah Lynch


Presented in 1080p from a 4K digital restoration of the original negatives supplied by MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), blue and sepia are the two colors present in what would otherwise be classed as a black and white movie. In all honesty, there’s nothing to complain about in regard to picture quality as the image is incredibly detailed. Modern back-lit television screens even give a “rear projection” look to the film. Robert Israel’s score in DTS-HD MA 5.1 which is compiled, synchronised and edited by Gillian B, sounds tremendous and is based on music cue sheets that were compiled and issued for the original 1927 release – giving the film new life and even more character.

The Cat and the Canary has a foreboding yet playful atmosphere, with a sense of mystery that encourages the viewer to actively participate in the late-night spooky shenanigans along with the assorted cast of suspects. I cite it as the perfect entry-level silent film for those who are keen to start exploring cinema’s pioneering period.

(1927, director: Paul Leni)



direct blu-ray screen captures



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