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The Curator of Schlock #317 by Jeff Shuster

The Uncanny

Peter Cushing and Ray Milland. Need I say more?

I’m still reeling from Night of 1,000 Cats. Did you know the Mexican cut of the movie is a full half hour longer than the American version? What did editors cut out? Did it show Hugo Stiglitz doing some really depraved things to those women he brought to his monastery? Maybe a childhood flashback shows him murder his parents and feed them to the family cat? A half hour is a lot of potential missing character development. I need to know what possesses a man to collect women’s’ heads.

I need closure.

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This week’s movie is 1977’s The Uncanny from director Denis Héroux. It is an anthology movie featuring three tales of terror and a framing story. This framing story involves a writer named Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) who has written a book on how cats rule the world. You see, cats are our masters and we’re their servants. They’ve just fooled us into seeing them as pets. An interested publisher named Frank Richards (Ray Milland) is intrigued by the book, but not completely sold on the idea. Wilbur then details three incidents involving felines his prove his point.

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Our first story centers around a young woman named Janet (Susan Pelhaligon) working as a maid in London in the year 1912. Her employer is old crone named Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) who loves her many cats, but despises her jet-setting nephew, Michael (Simon Williams). She adjusts her will, leaving her nephew with next to nothing while her vast fortune will go to the care of her cats. Janet is actually having an affair with her nephew and murders Miss Malkin while attempting to steal the revised will.

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I know murder is wrong and all, but am I supposed to feel sorry for some old bitty who hoards her cash away just to give it away to some lousy strays after she dies? At least her prodigal nephew would give that money back to the community. Let him waste his money at fancy restaurants and hotels. As long as he’s a good tipper, we can look the other way, am I right? At any rate, the cats know what’s up and want to keep the will intact. Janet and Michael suffer a gruesome fate and the fortune goes to the cats.

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The other two stories are in a similar vein. You’ve got one about an orphaned girl named Lucy (Katrina Holden Bronson) and her cat, Wellington. They move in with her Aunt and Uncle and their cruel daughter, Angela (Chloe Franks). Angela incessantly bullies Lucy even though she knows Lucy’s mother was a witch and that Lucy inherited lots of books on black magic. I wonder how this is going to turn out.

More importantly, Katrina Holden Bronson is the daughter of Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland!

The final story takes place in the Golden Age of Hollywood where an actor named Valentine (Donald Pleasence) murders his wife and convinces the studio to cast his mistress in his deceased wife’s part. And his deceased wife had a pet cat, so you know what’s coming.

So The Uncanny is kind of a low rent Tales From the Crypt, but I got to see Ray Milland chewing the scenery with Peter Cushing. That was worth my 90 minutes.

Let’s see—I seem to remember that Peter Cushing was in some other movie in 1977, but I can’t quite remember what it is.


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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.