ARGUABLY UNIVERSAL’S next choice for the horror genre would be better delivered 12 years later by rival film company Paramount Pictures.
Certainly it received wider recognition.
Still, in 1927, The Cat and the Canary, based on a play by John Willard would serve up as their fourth outing in what later be labelled as Universal Horror.
Hired for directorial duty would be German Expressionist filmmaker, Paul Leni, who would go on to contribute to Universal for a further 3 movies before passing away at only 44 from an untreated tooth infection.
He is a forgotten master of his craft and one can only ask what would have become of him, had he not been cruelly robbed of this world just as he was starting to hit his stride.
For his debut feature for Universal though, Leni would lend his talents to produce a comedy horror gem and iconic for its time in history.
Centred on the tale of millionaire Cyrus West’s last will and testament, this silent feature unfolds across an evening.
However, a second will appears with suggestions that it were laid there by the ghost of Cyrus West which can only be opened in the event that the details in the first will aren’t carried out.
Essentially, all of his estate is to be bequeathed to his most distant relative, Annabelle, played by iconic silent screen star, Laura La Plante.
She must undergo a medical examination declaring her mentally well, failing to do so enacts the second will.
All relatives eagerly eye of her failure in order to get their hands on the fortune.
Throw into the mix, an escaped lunatic known as The Cat, and you have yourself a fun little romper of a story.
The horror element of this movie can be played loosely but does bare the one creepy moment as played in the clip above, but essentially it’s too light for the true horror enthusiast, but still marks an important entry to the canon as Universal begin to pave a way for what was to come.
- Paul Farrell