The original, old-school reading-the-will-in-a-haunted-house murder mystery bugbear, directed in 1927 by German expat Paul Leni midway between two masterpieces (1924’s Waxworks and 1928’s The Man Who Laughs, both on disc from Kino). Little did Leni seem aware of exactly how much movie theaters and movies themselves are extravagant edifices built wholly from shadow and anxiety, haunted by vengeful ghosts and desires. But his adroitly atmospheric film is virtually an ideogram of narrative suspension and impact, and it’s a lovely, musty, nightened place to visit. Leni was first and foremost an Expressionist art director, and every architectural inch of Cat is trimmed out. The remastered image quality is the best anyone’s seen since the advent of talkies, and the disc comes with two scores, old and new, as well as the 1920 Hal Roach–Harold Lloyd short “Haunted Spooks.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2005

Archive Highlights