The Shadow Of The Cat (United Kingdom 1961)

A Hammer horror in all but name (Hammer removed its name from the credits due to legal quota reasons) which supported The Curse Of The Werewolf on a double bill. It is masterfully directed by John Gilling, who succeeds in wringing suspense and tension from a not very believable plot. If the film has any flaws it is because giggles do occasionally set in when the actors go over the top in their hysterical reaction to puss. The police inspector rather neatly sums it all up: “Things really come to pass when a cat terrorizes a house full of adults.”

The film opens with Andre Morrell murdering his wife — she controls the family fortune — and with the connivance of two servants, Andrew Crawford and the ludicrous Freda Jackson. The only witness to the event was Tabitha the cat and the sight of the cat gives them guilty consciences. Other relatives arrive, led by the softly spoken beauty, Barbara Shelley, with her fiancé Conrad Phillips. Shelley is the only one that Tabitha behaves with. The others, all money grabbers, now influenced by Morrell, hate the cat, ascribing to her supernatural behaviour. Any attempts to trap and kill her (boo! hiss) result in much of the cast dying.

Despite the b&w presentation taking away his use of colours, director John Gilling impressively still digs his claws into a rich Gothic atmosphere. Casting a sense of fearful unease bubbling underneath the false concern for Ella (Morell’s wife), Gilling and cinematographer Arthur Grant, stylishly whip-pan across each killer, revealing their sly smiles. Holding back on the gore, Gilling dives in to the ridiculousness of the situation with fantastic first person tracking shots which make the cat look like a 60 foot beast. The death scenes shot from the cat’s point of view using a distorted lens are particularly effective.

The all British cast give a 100% effort. But if you took the exciting musical score (by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis) out of ‘Cat’…with it’s eerie grinding base and shrill stings – perfectly bringing to mind the quick movements of a panicked feline – this film would lose much of it’s considerable atmosphere. The pounding (near symphonic) main title, played over the image of an old dark country manor, sounds reminiscent of a ghostly steam locomotive. This makes the setting appear doubly creepy and hammers (no pun intended) home the seriousness of the nasty crime that’s just been committed. Some won’t buy the idea of a cat causing such panic, but this bunch of characters are murderers under close investigation, living on their guilt ridden nerves in an era where superstition was rife. They are also struggling with a haunted ‘collective’ conscience. So….do what I did and buy the dvd! 🙂

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Comments

  1. Brilliant review, I’ll be sure to check this one out. From the pics it looks like the cat is adorable but I’ll do my best to get into the atmos of this flick ha ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! Definitely one for cat lovers and people who are partial to old black and white flicks.

    Like

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