The Cat and The Canary 1978 ***

Amazon delve deep into the lucky-bag of forgotten films and return with this curiosity, the remake of the remake of The Cat and the Canary. This isn’t your grandmother’s film though, director Radley Metzger only made one non-pornographic film during his lengthy career, and for some reason appears to have been able to summon up an illustrious cast for this country-house murder mystery set in 1934 (in the same house featured in 1976 blockbuster The Omen). Cyrus West (Wilfred Hyde White) dies, and his inheritance is a matter of great interest to a number of parties, including Honor Blackman, Olivia Hussey, Peter McEnrey and Annabelle (Carol Lynley). Foul play gets in the way, and when Dr Hendricks (Edward Fox) comes flying through a plate-glass window to advise of a maniac on the loose, surviving the night becomes the top priority. Metzger handles his cast reasonably well, with Fox in particular unfettered by any sense of restraint in the most barking performance of an otherwise distinguished career.

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Murder Mystery 2019 ***

Netflix come up with another ingenuous save from the slush-pile; a rom-com vehicle developed via Charlize Theron and John Madden, probably at some cost, given a quick re-spray to become an Adam Sandler/ Jennifer Aniston tent-pole for the streaming giant.  Presumably the script was inspired by many hoary who-dunnits and husband-wife detective teams as in The Thin Man, and the result plays like something that was old hat in the late 1930’s, yet still works better than most modern structures. Mr and Mrs Spitz (Sandler and Aniston) are taking a vacation when they meet up with a charming viscount (Luke Evans) who invites them to enjoy his family yacht in Monaco. There the Spitz adventure continues when the patriarch (Terence Stamp) is killed before he can change his will, leaving everyone a suspect. The action shifts from the yacht to Monaco and Lake Como,; the exterior filming is lush, the cast, including Gemma Artetron, David Walliams and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson highly recognisable, and despite some groaners, there are real flashes of wit in the deconstruction of mystery conventions. Murder Mystery is one of the better films Netflix have made in terms of satisfying an audience; the worrying thing for the streamer must be that it’s the most ancient wine imaginable poured into the shiniest of new bottles.

https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80242619?source=35

A Perfect Getaway 2009 ***

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Writer/director David Twohy pulled together a neat little whodunit with this 2009 sleeper, which ingeniously updated Agatha Christie to the world of backpackers. A couple Cliff and Cydney (Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn) take a vacation trip to Hawaii, but there’s a killer on the loose; Nick (Timothy Olyphant) fits the profile, but there’s also a couple of hitchhikers (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton) to contend with. Perfect getaway has twists too good to spoil, but it’s also a chance to see performers who rarely get enough of a crack of a whip; Zahn, Olyphant and Jovovich all seize the opportunity to give lively performances in this ingenious thriller.

Bear Island 1979 ***

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Don Sharp’s 1979 thriller marked the closing of the cycle of films based on Alistair Maclean novels; Bear Island sold over eight million copies, and Sharp’s film is a big-budget Canadian production. Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark and Christopher Lee are amongst the party stationed on Bear Island, which was a base for Nazi U-boats during the war. Various espionage elements are engaged in a search for Nazi gold, and there’s a notable snowmobile chase in the style of a James Bond movie. Public tastes had drifted away from this kind of stoic action by this point, but Bear Island is a decent who-dunnit that keeps the audience in doubt as to the motivations of the well-wrapped-up characters. A coda, noting that Goodbye California by Maclean was in the pipeline, proved to be misguided.