As with many anthologies, there's good and bad in The Uncanny.
Unlike all the rest, the bad far outweighs the good. And it's no surprise
that in this half British, half Canadian effort, the British bit is the
only half decent part of it.
The linking theme of the film is cats, and how evil they are. Peter Cushing
(as good as ever) has the evidence - the problem is that it's so flimsy,
it's surprising his publisher (the camp-as-a-window Ray Milland) doesn't
chuck him out halfway through the first story. It would have saved us
all a lot of pain.
The big mistake seems to have been that someone came up with an idea,
and then they had to work the stories around it. So we have three stories
where the cats could have done the dirty deed, but even when dramatised
directly in front of us, it still looks like coincidence. How crap is
that? Plus in the middle story, the cat isn't even the baddie!
he first tale is set in Victorian times, as long-suffering maid Susan
Penhaligan tries to diddle her miserable old boss's cats out of their
rightful inheritance after the old girl snuffs it. The overriding memory
of this scene is Penhaligan being attacked by cats. Over and over and
over again. Until she's absolutely caked in blood and her blouse is a
right mess. Chuck in some half eaten cadavers and you've got the best
bit of the film. Honestly.
The second segment concerns a recently orphaned little girl who arrives
at her new house to find that her cat and books on witchcraft aren't welcome
at all. The cat is taken off to the vets to be put down, the books are
chucked on the fire. The problem is that because the girl is not only
squeakily annoying but Canadian as well, we couldn't give a toss
about her predicament. The gory ending also features some of the worst
CSO camera trickery ever consigned to film.
If you're still with us by the time the third segment comes around (Cushing
seems to have realised what a turkey he's in as he gets more and more
agitated), you do have Donald Pleasence to look forward to. Unfortunately,
he's not exactly on top form. And we're left wondering what kind of Hollywood
studio uses real torture devices in their films, trusting to luck that
the blade on the pendulum isn't real, or the door at the back of the iron
maiden will open to allow the actor to get out of the back before they
get spiked. Yes, it is that bad.
Despite what you might have read, the cats in this film do look quite
evil, and Susan Penhaligan's fate in particular is not something I'd like
to go through. 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. Consign this one to the
litter tray (cat joke for you, there).