Instant Queue Movie Club: The Cat and the Canary

Hello all. Hopefully you found ‘The Botany of Desire’ an interesting peek into the manipulative world of plant evolution, and not a snorefest apace with watching plants grow. Do let me know any thoughts and opinions in the comments.

This week’s movie is ‘The Cat and the Canary’, a 1927 silent thriller featuring that ol’ chestnut of a plot – inherit a fortune…IF you spend the night in a HAUNTED MANSION! Wooooh! Here’s a taste of what we’re in for:

A friend of mine once said of silent films, what’s the point? Black and white was boring enough but no sound? I nearly had an apoplectic fit trying to explain the beauty of pure image as he went on to tout the awesomeness of 3-D.

This isn’t calling him a Philistine by any means; he has a damn good point. Why watch a style of movie we’ve long evolved past? Movies are supposed to be entertainment, not exercises in grim academia and historical stodginess.

To watch and appreciate silent movies is to learn a different language, a language of film preceding the use of recorded dialogue (to repeat the oft-mentioned obvious, silent films were never ‘silent’, often accompanied by live music, prerecorded sound effects, and live foley). Just like learning any new language, it’s a challenge rewarded by understanding a different point of view. Yes, the acting style is often histronic. Yes, the pace is far slower than today’s movies (although at an average runtime of 80 minutes they’re less bloated). Yes, they often lack the extended denouement we’re used to in modern storytelling (thank goodness, says I) and cut right to ‘THE END’. All these differences reflect the attitudes and mindset of the time they were created in, and aside from being fascinating historical documents in that right, are often pretty campy and entertaining once you get into them.

That being said, if you’re in the NYC area and still aren’t sold on silent, Film Forum is showing ‘Dial M for Murder’ in 3-D so you can have your multidimensional cake and eat your classy cinema studies too. You know what, that phrase ‘have your cake and eat it too‘, barely makes any sense. From now on I’m using the Italian vuoi la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (“you want your bottle full of wine and your wife drunk”).

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