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Universal Horror Collection Vol 6 Main

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 6 - The Shadow of the Cat Blu-ray Review

Universal Horror Collection Volume 6 Large

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Directed by John Gilling
Written by George Baxt
1961, 79 minutes, Not Rated
Released on August 25th, 2020

Starring:
André Morell as Walter Venable
Barbara Shelley as Beth Venable
William Lucas as Jacob Venable
Freda Jackson as Clara, the Maid
Conrad Phillips as Michael Latimer

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Review:

Our story opens on a dark and stormy night as the elderly Ella Venable reads to her cat. She is startled by an intruder and is summarily murdered. As it turns out, the killer is her butler, following orders from her greedy husband Walter. Together with assistance from the maid, they carry Ella’s body out of the house to bury it in the swamp. Their crime would have been perfect if not for the witness… Ella’s vengeful cat!

Walter reports Ella missing to the police and later joins the others searching the house for her money. He is attacked by the cat and suffers a heart attack leaving him bedridden. Walter phones for his brother and nephew to help with the search, but his prospects are hindered with the arrival of Ella’s concerned niece, Beth, and a newspaper editor named Michael Latimer. Following a string of “accidents” Walter and company are convinced the cat is targeting them for revenge. Beth has no such issues with the cat and finds their behavior rather strange. As it turns out, the cat really is out to settle the score and avenge his beloved owner.

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The Shadow of the Cat is a Hammer Films co-production with Universal that contains a few surprises, particularly when it comes to onscreen violence. It pushes the envelope of what was acceptable in 1961, giving it an uncomfortable edge. Rather than suggest someone falling down the stairs, we see the full tumble and landing punctuated with a crash of meaty sound effects. Later in the picture, someone falls off a roof and we witness the descent and cut to a close-up of the body bouncing off the ground!

Directed by John Gilling (The Reptile), the picture is rich with plenty of atmosphere. Working from a script by George Baxt (The City of the Dead), Gilling keeps things intriguing despite the absurd premise of a vengeful feline. Performances are strong across the board, particularly André Morell (The Plague of the Zombies) as Walter Venable, and Barbara Shelley (Quatermass and the Pit) as Beth. This is an entertaining film that plays it straight and is all the better for it.

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Video and Audio:

All four titles have been remastered using a 2K scan of original fine-grain film elements and are presented in their original aspect ratios: The Black Castle 1.33:1, The Shadow of the Cat 1.66:1 and both Cult of the Cobra and The Thing That Couldn’t Die in their native 1.85:1. These are great transfers that really impress with strong contrast levels and sharp detail missing from previous releases.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 graces each of the films, preserving the original mono recordings. Dialogue is reliably crisp and clearly understandable. The audio tracks are free from hiss, pops or other forms of distortion and optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Disc 1: The Black Castle

In his audio commentary, film historian Tom Weaver offers a detailed look at the production history, including information on the director and cast members. He points out the numerous music cues recycled from other classic Universal monster movies. Actor recreations are used to enhance excerpts from interviews with cast and crew and Weaver reads from various critic reviews from the time of release.

Film critic/authors Kim Newman and Stephen Jones provide a video appreciation of one of the studios most prolific periods in the new segment Universal Horror Strikes Back! – A Look at Universal Horror in the 40s (14 minutes). These two scholars are clearly having fun sharing their excitement for the era.

A photo gallery slideshow (2 minutes) offers a collection of promotional stills, publicity shots, color lobby cards and poster art.

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Disc 2: Cult of the Cobra

In this highly entertaining audio commentary, Tome Weaver returns with an overview of horror movies of the era and a history of the curse film subgenre. He points to the numerous similarities between this picture and the classic chiller Cat People. There are detailed production notes and information on the cast and crew. Weaver is joined briefly by historian David Schecter, who discusses the music in the film and later by author Steve Kronenberg, who provides additional perspective. Dr. Robert J. Kiss contributes comments on the theatrical release and response.

A theatrical trailer is paired with four TV spots.

A photo gallery (3 minutes) provides a collection of publicity shots, production stills, color poster art and lobby cards.

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Disc 3: The Thing That Couldn’t Die

Once again, Tom Weaver provides another great commentary, starting with a brief look at the act of divining. He goes on to discuss the origins of this film during a particularly rocky time at Universal. There are actor recreations of cast interviews and a humorous look at the history of detached heads in cinema. Film historian C. Courtney Joyner pops in near the conclusion to draw a connection between this title and the classic westerns of the era.

The theatrical trailer has been included.

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Disc 4: The Shadow of the Cat

Film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck’s audio commentary is informative and engaging as he traces the history of this production starting with its place as a Hammer Film. He talks about the controversial elements of the script and the production and offers notes on the cast and director. He also points out the recycled sets from Curse of the Werewolf with which this film was released as a double feature.

In the Shadow of Shelley (2020, 24 minutes) is a newly-recorded retrospective interview with actress Barbara Shelley, who looks back on her career.

A TV spot for the double feature of The Curse of the Werewolf / The Shadow of the Cat is included.

A still gallery (4 minutes) includes promotional images, international poster art and lobby cards.

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Grades:

The Black Castle:
Cult of the Cobra:
The Thing that Couldn’t Die:
The Shadow of the Cat:
Twoandahalfstars
Twoandahalfstars
Twostars
Threestars
Cover
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Video: Fourstars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Twoandahalfstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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