Thursday, June 20, 2019

pussy wagon.

We appear to have adopted a stray cat here at Unwell Towers, which is nice and it seems to be taking up all my time, I mean I go to make a cuppa so I can start work (yes I do some occasionally) and end up just sitting watching it eat cat biscuits or preening.

Maybe I should have paid more heed to this movie when I first saw it years ago.

Well I might have had it been a wee bit less forgettable, seriously I'm having trouble remembering it and I've only just turned it off.

But surely any film that starts with a Ted Hughes quote can't be that bad.



Can it?

The Uncanny (1977).
Dir: Claude Héroux
Cast: Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Samantha Eggar, Donald Pleasence,  John Vernon, Susan Penhaligon, Alexandra Stewart, Joan Greenwood, Roland Culver, Simon Williams, Donald Pilon, Chloe Franks and Katrina Holden Bronson.

There are a couple of other folk but frankly I got bored.

You're not such a big girl anymore, are you, Angela? Why, you're no bigger than a mouse!


Our story opens on a foggy night in a foggy (Canadian) street where piss-stained mystery author Wilbur Gray (Cushing enjoying a free holiday to Montreal) has just finished his new manuscript - a massive tome that links the worlds most bizarre unsolved murders to an army of killer cats that secretly rule the world.

Which sounds just like the plot to the classic Cats And Dogs if I'm honest but heyho.

His portly - and cat loving - publisher Frank Richards (a conspicuously sober Milland) reckons that it's all utter bollocks and invites Gray round for tea, biscuits and a chance to change his mind by telling him three of the scariest stories from his book.....

"...And this bag is fully of all the fucks I give!"


So it's with a shuffle of papers and a whiff of lemon that we're transported - via the medium of wobbly dissolve - to London town in the year 1912, where the wealthy widow Mrs. Melkin (Greenwood, slumming it for beer money) has just decided to bequeath her entire fortune to her cats, completely cutting her ne'er do well nephew Michael (Williams from Upstairs, Downstairs and Doctor Who) from her will due to him spending his allowance on booze and burds.

Well, booze and Mrs. Melkin's mousy maid Janet (70s uber Brit TV babe Penhaligon).

And it's by chance - and plot convenience - that Janet overhears the old woman discussing these changes with her lawyer, Wallace (Culver, who I'm sure has been in loads of stuff but honestly I can't be bothered checking) so rushes off - after doing the dishes and the like - to inform Michael.

Shocked at the thought of having to do some actually work for a living, he hatches a plan to get Janet to steal the will from his aunts safe and burn it.

Sneaking into Mrs. Melkin's bedchamber as she sleeps, Janet carefully steps over/around the collective cats and manages to open the safe and grab the will only to be caught in the act by a suddenly very awake - and very nimble for an old bird - Mrs. Melkin who angrily threatens to call the police leaving Janet no choice than to smother her with a pillow as the cats look on planning their catty revenge.

Or they might just be thinking about dinner.

I honestly don't know.

"Fiona! Where's mah lunch?"


Actually I do know as I continued to watch in the hope of something exciting happening or at least a glimpse of ankle, which to be honest I did get but only after the cats had tried to claw Janet to death and she'd locked herself in the pantry.

You can see where this is going can't you?

Well if not tough cos I'm not going to spoil the twist for you.

I mean I had to sit thru' it so why shouldn't you?

As Gray finishes the terrifying tale he's upset to see that Richards is unimpressed so decides to take another true-crime file from his big swapping pocket in an attempt to convince him af the creepy cat capers and this time it's a wee bit more up to date, concerned as it is with the recent disappearance of a young girl, Angela Blake (Go to 70s child star Franks who was in everything from The House That Dripped Blood, I Monster, Who Slew Auntie Roo and Tales From The Crypt) in a leafy suburb of Quebec a few months earlier.

Bunnet.


The story begins when her cousin Lucy (Bronson, adopted daughter of Charles - no really - who it sounds as if has actually been dubbed by her dad here) ends up moving in with Angela and her mum and dad (Stewart from Mickey One and Pilon whom you may remember from the frankly shite video nasty I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses alongside Elkie Sommer) after her parents were killed in an horrific Frisbee accident.

But she's not alone as she's brought her pet cat Wellington along with her.

Tho' no actual wellingtons obviously.

But she does own a rather fetching bobble hat.

So that's OK then.

Anyway Angela, being a snidey wee cow and not having a pet of her own decides to spend her days abusing Lucy and blaming the cat for everything that goes wrong around the house.

Typical girl then.

As Wellington and Lucy get blamed for more and more outrageous acts (shitting in the bin, leaving hairs in the butter, subscribing to Pornhub etc) Angela's by now pissed off poppa decides to take the poor cat for a drive and leave it in the woods to die.

Much like my parents did with my cat as a child.

And by cat I mean me.

Just the pussy I've been looking for.




To cut a short story shorter, Wellington finds his way home, partly because that's what cats do but mainly because he's actually a familiar and Lucy's mom was a witch (or something) enabling her to exact revenge on her cousin thru' the power of magic and some sub-par CSO that's so fucking god-awful it would make ex-Doctor Who producer Barry Letts vomit blood.

If he wasn't dead obviously.

It's not too surprising to find that Richards still thinks that Gray's tales are utter bollocks but fear not as he announces that he's saved the best till last.

And with that our withered handed writer begins to recount the terrifying tale of the famous 1930s horror actor Valentine De'ath (Pleasance) who, after murdering his wife onset in a bizarre pendulum accident persuades his producer Pomeroy (Vernon, best known as Dean Wormer in Animal House) into replacing his still warm wife with his thick as pigshit girlfriend Edina Clunt (Eggar, who even tho' she appeared in The Brood can't be forgiven).

Anyway for the sake of basic storytelling she does indeed get the part and the pair retire to  De'ath's mansion where their attempts to have 'the sex' are constantly interrupted by his wife's cat.


"Put it in me!"


De'ath is having none of this and promptly drowns the cat's litter in the toilet before heading off to the studio to pad the already frighteningly thin premise with some comedy swordplay.

Unfortunately tho' not in his mouth.

The cat, upset by the murder of its children, follows him to the studio and attempts to kill the actor by chewing thru' some rope in order to drop an arc light on him.

And so as the film drunkenly lurches toward its climax the scene is set for a shocking showdown 'tween De'ath, Clunk and a very angry moggy...

Oh and then we go back to what Peter Cushing is up to for a twist ending obviously.




Produced by the professor of portmanteau horror himself, the late great Milton Subotsky - unfortunately at the arse end of his career (only Hawk The Slayer and The Monster Club to come) - and co-financed by Cinévidéo in Canada (yes you can) and The Rank Organization in dear old blightly, The Uncanny is a threadbare, scare-free oddity that seems as much out of time as it does out of ideas.

Shot in Quebec for less than the cost of a McDonald's Happy Meal, most of the budget appears to have been spent on Ray Milland's bar tab with the rest going toward getting Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence and Samantha Eggar on board.

Well it's either that or Subotsky had some well dodgy photos of them stashed in a cupboard.

And let's be honest it's not like they spent anything on the special effects.

Or sets.

Or script.

Perhaps the producers thought that the behind the scenes talent would be enough to create a classic, seeing as the film boasts a fairly impressive crew - from director Denis Héroux (the man behind Naked Massacre - the film that is not an actual crime) to screenwriter Michel Parry (who gave us Xtro) and ace cinematographer Harry Waxman (The Wicker Man and Brighton Rock among others), unfortunately the end result is utter pish from start to finish.

Which is a shame really.

Candle shtick.


The cast (well some of them, well Cushing and Pleasence) do their best with what they're given whilst everyone else seems to be channeling a particularly poor community centre stage version of Tales of The Unexpected.

Minus the sexy dancing lady obviously.

Believe it or not this was actually what we had instead of porn in the 70s.


No budget, no time and no mercy, The Uncanny served as the death knell for the multi-part horror film in the UK but let's be honest - if this was a vision of things to come then it was a mercy killing.

Next time something better.

I hope.

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