Recreeping the Cat

So, as previously established, Universal’s first talking horror film, THE CAT CREEPS, is now considered lost. Nevertheless, I have managed to score it off my list of films to see in my sentimental odyssey through all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (an odyssey entitled See Reptilicus and Die). How have I done this?

First, by stretching things a little. It’s my contention that a part can, under certain circumstances, stand for the whole. This is how cloning works, after all. THE CAT CREEPS is lost, but not absolutely entirely. A few seconds of footage appears in a Universal comedy short entitled BOO!, where it’s interspersed with clips from NOSFERATU and FRANKENSTEIN and a tiny amount of original material, cobbled together in a supposedly humorous way, with a dreadful nasal voice-over on top, after the school of Pete Smith. Horrible.

So, I’ve seen one minute and forty five seconds of THE CAT CREEPS, minus the soundtrack. Does that count? Yes it does. Here’s why ~

First, ask yourself, have you seen THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS? Or GREED? Possibly you have, but not in the complete form intended by the filmmakers. Nevertheless, you’d still say you had seen those films, right. So, I’ve seen all there apparently is of THE CAT CREEPS. And more — I’ve recreated it.

Below, for the first time anywhere, is all the footage from BOO! cut together in sequence, with the appalling voice-over removed, and all the repeating of shots for pseudo-comic effect deleted. This is, to all intents and purposes and until a full print is discovered in an Estonian insane asylum, Rupert (PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) Julian’s THE CAT CREEPS ~


Based on all of the above self-serving obfuscation, I can now say I’ve seen THE CAT CREEPS. And so have you!

You can see the strong influence of Paul Leni’s THE CAT AND THE CANARY, of which this is a talkie remake.

Denis Gifford wrote ~

“Hal Mohr photographed, using the great camera crane he had designed for BROADWAY, a 50,000-dollar ‘mechanical marvel’ built by the Llewellyn Iron Works. Camera and man could be swung up, down, laterally or in combination, whilst travelling forward or backward on a motorized truck.” Not all early talkies were static!

This is Lupita Tovar in the Spanish-language version of THE CAT CREEPS (EL GATO SE ARRASTRA? no, they called it LA VOLUNTAD DEL MUERTO, or THE WILL OF THE DEAD MAN), shot at night on the same sets as the Rupert Julian version. George Melford, who also helmed the Spanish CONDE DRACULA, shared directorial duties with Enrique Tovar Avalos. And this version is lost too! As with DRACULA, the Spanish version seems to come with sexier costumes.

14 Responses to “Recreeping the Cat”

  1. Does the Spanish language version exist?
    Thanks for putting those shots together, it actually looks pretty creepy!

    Loved ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ last night! Appropriate music too, much better than the one man electronic music for Nosferatu at the Filmhouse last year – but what’s with all these voiceovers for the intertitles? They always end up competing with the music. Had you seen it before?

  2. The shot at 20 secs of Moustachioed Patriarch’s dead (or is he?) body falling towards camera seems to me very like the astonishing final shot of Wellman’s Public Enemy (which itself feels like a precursor of the final shot of Ace in the Hole). Excellent detective work, DC.

  3. In Boo!, the body falling out of the closet is repeated several times, which may have inspired Tex Avery’s amazing sequence of falling butlers in his delirious horror toon Who Killed Who?

    I would be surprised if that shot doesn’t originate in the Paul Leni silent, but I can’t recall for sure offhand. It is a bit like Cagney’s death-topple.

    The Spanish version is just as lost as the English-language. Loster, even!

    Awoken by postman delivering the 1948 British House of Usher, which looks hilarious. Amateur Hour!

    The reading of (badly) translated intertitles didn’t bother me too much, I thought the voice was well chosen. But the sound levels weren’t right and one did strain to hear him. But then I started to feel that was quite interesting, and went well with Epstein’s film.

    I’m considering having a Poe Week on Shadowplay at Halloween.

  4. Poe Week is a great idea. Plenty of Corman, needless to say. Got a Region 2 of Epstein’s The Fall of The House of Usher the other day. Exquisite.
    And Curtis Harrington’s very last film was called Usher, and he starred in it himself.

    Helen Twelvetrees is Bullwinkle Moose’s favorite movie star. Her son has a publishe house called Twlvetrees press that specializes in photography books. It boast several Bruce Weber titles.

  5. BOO! is so painfully unfunny. Did people really find it funny back then? But I’m glad it was made, otherwise we’d have nothing of The Cat Creeps left. Thanks for putting this film together, it is really nice to see all the clips together.

  6. Thank God I never have to see Boo! again. I don’t think that crap was ever funny, it probably just tapped into audience’s feelings of aloofness over older films.

    At least they obviously used an optical printer to dupe shots again and again, so I don’t have to worry about them actually cannibalizing the last surviving print of TCC to make their crappy short. Nevertheless, the smug attitude of superiority to a film from a few years earlier is exactly why the movie was allowed to become lost.

    I’m very keen to see Harrington’s Usher, if anybody has a copy. He plays both Roderick and Madeleine, which is a superb idea. I’m sure it’s better than Ken Russell’s version.

  7. Christopher Says:

    Helen 12 Trees!
    excellent! gonna ad some music to it?…It looks like a tasty little film..People move almost like its a ballet.
    I bet the spanish version is a knockout!I’d really be interested in that.I was thinking it might be easier to find that version,since they store so many odds and ends in their TV vaults in Mexico and South America,Cuba..I saw spanish Drac on one of the spanish channels in south texas back in ’80 before gringos knew it existed.

  8. What I cunningly didn’t mention is that the Vitaphone discs containing the film’s soundtrack still exist and are UCLA. But at present I have no way to access them and I doubt they’d ever let me copy them. But SOMEBODY ought to synch the sound to the clips, that’d be better than any music I could add.

    I like the idea of the Spanish version turning up, especially while the lovely Lupita is still with us.

  9. And so is her daughter — seen her performing the most emotionally devestating scene in the entire history of the cinema.

  10. I like Susan Kohner a lot. That whole dynasty makes a fascinating slice of Hollywood history, with super-agent Paul Kohner organizing the refugee community during the war.

  11. If you’re doing Poe Week, do cover ”The Avenging Conscience” by David Wark Griffith.

  12. Oh yes, I must! Plus there are a couple of movies with EAP as a main character, which would be fun. One favourite is The Man in the Cloak with Joseph Cotten as a crime-solving alcoholic author who turns out to be…

  13. david wingrove Says:

    The best Poe impersonation I’ve ever seen was Klaus Kinski in an obscure Italian horror flick called IN THE WEB OF THE SPIDER.

    It was made by Antonio Margheriti and it’s a Technicolor remake of his own CASTLE OF BLOOD (aka DANSE MACABRE).

    Not a great film…but Klaus is (predictably) magnificent.

  14. […] David Cairns reconstructs what he can of the lost horror film The Cat Creeps—all one minute and forty-two seconds of it. […]

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