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Blu-ray Review

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The Cat and the Canary (1939) / The Ghost Breakers (1940)


Starring: Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £24.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 05 December 2022

Eureka Entertainment releases The Cat And The Canary, and The Ghost Breakers as a double-bill of horror/mystery comedies featuring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. Mounted on a single disc, they are presented as part of the Eureka Classics range and appear for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK – the latter from a new 2K master. The first 2000 copies incorporate a limited-edition o-card slipcase and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann. Additional disc features include: a commentary on both films by Keven Lyons and Jonathan Rigby; a Kim Newman interview (more of an entertaining talk, really) on the background to the films; The Ghost Breakers 1949 radio adaptation; and trailers. There is also a reversible sleeve with original poster artwork...

In The Cat and the Canary (1939) – directed by Elliot Nugent: An eccentric millionaire has died and his remaining relatives arrive at his spooky abandoned mansion, deep in the Louisiana bayous (swamps) for a reading of the will. The sole inheritor turns out to be his niece Joyce (Goddard), but it comes with a proviso that she does not go insane within the next 30 days – otherwise another of the relatives, named in a mysterious envelope which goes missing, would gain the fortune. Joyce must spend the night in the mansion, protected by Wally (Hope) who is afraid of his own shadow, surrounded by jealous relatives and a creepy housekeeper. As if that isn’t bad enough, a homicidal maniac has escaped from a nearby sanatorium.

In The Ghost Breakers (1940) – directed by George Marshall: Larry Lawrence (Hope) is wrongly accused of a crime, but evades the police by concealing himself in a trunk which gets loaded aboard a steamer ship bound for Cuba. The owner, Mary Carter (Goddard) is on her way to take possession of a curious inheritance – a supposedly haunted castle. In order to make the way safer for Mary, Larry and his valet precede her to the island. Here, they have to contend with a ghost, a zombie, and an earthly foe just as frightening.

As an avid follower of horror in film, TV and literature for many years, I’m generally not an advocate of inherent humour because, almost universally, it fails to work. There are exceptions, of course, such as An American Werewolf in London, and a handful of others. Bob Hope is great; he was even born in the same English town as myself. However, his constant quips do come across as a little annoying – particularly in The Cat and the Canary, the better-known of these two flicks. This is because these films spring from a long line of farce which originated primarily in books and on stage. There were subsequent silent movies and then later talkies, such as these two. They were hugely popular in their time, and you can readily see from their format they were designed for the stage. I enjoyed The Ghost Breakers more than its predecessor because it’s less cliched. Willie Best – one of the first well-known African American comedians – is great as Alex, the valet to Larry. But some of the friendly banter lines Hope is given to say to Best do somewhat raise the eyebrows. Oh well, we live in enlightened times.


Ty Power

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