The Shadow of the Cat is directed by John Gilling and written by George Baxt. It stars Conrad Phillips, Barbara Shelley, André Morell, Richard Warner, William Lucas and Andrew Crawford. Music is by Mikis Theodorakis and cinematography by Arthur Grant.
Tabitha the house cat witnesses her mistress being murdered by her scheming family and sets about enacting revenge...
Out of BHP Films, which is basically Hammer Films using an alias due to a technical legality, The Shadow of the Cat is a delightfully eerie entrant in the pantheon of Old Dark House movies.
The picture kicks off with the brutal murder of an old dear, the setting a moody mansion full of shadows, murky rooms, rickety floors, nooks and crannies, and this while Tabitha the cat watches intensely. From here we meet the roll call of family and house servants, the majority of whom are nefarious, and as the paranoia builds amongst the guilty, their reasons for dastardly doings evident, Tabitha goes about her cunning assassinations.
Of for sure it's bonkers in plotting, but Gilling (The Plague of the Zombies/The Reptile) was a very astute director, and he manages to wring much suspense and unease from the story, whilst he's not shy to play up some humour and even adds some decent shocks into the bargain. Cast are on good form, playing it just the way it should be played, and the Bray Studio surrounding areas once again prove to be a useful location for such horror shenanigans.
Aided by Grant's (The Tomb of Ligeia/The Curse of the Werewolf) beautiful black and white photography, Gilling proves masterful at atmosphere. Naturally we have the requisite thunderstorm, but it's the oblique angles and looming shadows that really fill the mood with impending dread. While the use of a stretch screen technique to portray the cat's POV (Catovision?) is a nice trick that works very effectively.
It's a hard film to get hold of, but there are decent sources available to view it (the Onyx Media International double DVD with Cat Girl is a good transfer that does justice to the photography). It's still under seen and little known due to its lack of availability. Which is a shame, because for fans of Old Dark House creepers there's good fun to be had here. 8/10