Ella Venable (Catherine Lacey) has been murdered. The murder conspiracy includes the butler, Andrew (Andrew Crawford), Ella’s husband Walter Venable (Andre Morell) and the maid, Clara (Freda Jackson). Ella is buried on the grounds of the estate. The only witness to the crime is Ella’s cat, Tabitha (Bunkie).
Three days later Walter notifies the police that Ella is missing. Inspector Rowles (Alan Wheatley) and the owner of the local paper, Michael Latimer (Conrad Phillips) arrive. Walter tells them that he assumed she was in her room and just didn’t want to see anyone. He went to her room to try to smooth over whatever was bothering her and found she wasn’t there. He assumed she went off by herself and just didn’t tell anyone but he is now concerned about her well being. Inspector Rowles questions Walter. Knowing that the family will get suspicious, Walter sends a telegram to Ella’s favorite niece, Beth (Barbara Shelley), to come to the estate.
After the police leave Walter asks Andrew about the cat. Andrew tells him that it won’t come to him. Walter says that the cat knows Ella was murdered. He says the cat will have to be dealt with. While searching the dark basement for Tabitha, Walter begins to get spooked by the cat and the rats in the cellar. When Tabitha jumps onto his back Walter has a heart attack and falls to the floor.
Now bedridden Walter can no longer fend for himself. The police are back to check on the situation. Walter tells them that the cat has turned feral now that Ella is missing. The doctor wants to hire a nurse but Clara says that Ella’s niece will be arriving soon and that the two of them will take care of Walter. The three murderers are now totally obsessed with catching and killing the cat.
Walter sends for his equally slimy brother Edgar (Richard Warner) and Edgar’s son Jacob (William Lucas) to help with the cat. Jacob’s wife Louise (Vanda Godsell) is with them. In the meantime the hunt for Tabitha the cat has gone from an obsession to a downright mania. Beth is quite perplexed since her meeting with the cat was gentle and warm. Walter takes his newly arrived relatives into his confidence. They must find Ella’s original will that names Beth the only beneficiary and they must find and kill the cat. He will then pay them well. Now the conspirators focus all their attention on catching and killing the cat. But they are no match for the crafty feline. One by one Tabitha gets her revenge on them.
“The Shadow of the Cat” was released in 1961 and was directed by John Gilling. It is a horror film produced by Hammer Film Studios. The film is basically a feline version of “The Ladykillers” 1955.
Many believe that cats are usually portrayed as villains in horror movies. More than not they are antiheroes rather than villains. Such is the case with Tabitha. Normally a mild mannered house pet she turns into an avenging creature making sure that those that harmed her mistress or that tried to benefit from the act are given their comeuppance. Some nice lighting accentuates the eerie glow of the cat’s eyes making it look even more conniving as it tricks each villain into bringing about their own death. It’s a cat and mouse game in the extreme. You have no fear for the cat knowing that it will accomplish its aim and another guilty person will fall into its trap. I loved this movie.
Being in residence with a tabby cat myself I am fully aware of their intelligence and demonic tendencies. Ours, being half domestic long tail and half Manx, was rewarded with super intelligence and a stubby forked tail. Short though it may be he can still swear up a storm using sharp flicks that communicate just as much as his eighty-plus decibel voice. He does not meow. He screams. We do what he says.