The Shadow of the Cat

The Shadow of the Cat
Directed by John Gilling
Produced by Jon Penington
Written by George Baxt
Starring André Morell
Barbara Shelley
William Lucas
Freda Jackson
Conrad Phillips
Music by Mikis Theodorakis
Cinematography Arthur Grant
Edited by James Needs
John Pomeroy
Distributed by Rank Organisation (United Kingdom)
Universal International (United States)
Release dates
1 May 1961
Running time
79 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget ₤81,000[1]

The Shadow of the Cat is a 1961 British horror film directed by John Gilling for Hammer Film Productions.[2] It stars André Morell and Barbara Shelley.[3] It was photographed in black-and-white by Arthur Grant.[4]

The story is about Tabitha, the house cat of a wealthy lady, who witnesses the murder of her owner by her owner's husband and two servants. The cat becomes bent on revenge while the murderers try to kill her, the only witness.


Late at night in early 1900's England, wealthy and elderly Ella Venable (Catherine Lacey) is killed in the attic of her manor house by Andrew the butler (Andrew Crawford). The butler is joined by Ella's husband, Walter Venable (André Morell), and Clara the maid (Freda Jackson). Together they bury Ella's body on the grounds of the estate.

The only witness to the murder and burial is Ella's tabby cat, Tabitha. The cat understands what happened. The murderers realize the cat's comprehension and resolve to kill it.

Days later, Inspector Rowles (Alan Wheatley) and newspaper man Michael Latimer (Conrad Phillips) are called to the house to investigate what Walter maintains is Ella's "disappearance." Michael and the inspector are suspicious; they know that Walter married Ella for her money.

Before he had her killed, Walter forced Ella to sign a will that left everything to him. However, her original will, which left Walter nothing, remains hidden in the attic. Walter needs to find and destroy this original to ensure the security of his inheritance. He looks for it that night.

The attic is structurally unsound and Walter falls through a rotten floorboard. Though not hurt, he stops his search and goes downstairs. There, he and Andrew see Tabitha and pursue her into the basement. The feline injures Andrew and gives Walter a heart attack.

Walter invites Ella's favorite niece, Elizabeth "Beth" Venable (Barbara Shelley), to stay at the house. He worries that she might question the illegitimate will and wants to "deal with her" in person.

Elizabeth runs into Michael upon her arrival; they are old friends from when she used to live in the area. She is untroubled by the news that her aunt's will left her nothing.

Bedridden by the cat-induced heart attack, Walter is unable to continue his search for the original will so he invites his criminal nephew, Jacob Venable (William Lucas), Jacob's father, Edgar Venable (Richard Warner), and Jacob's wife, Louise Venable (Vanda Godsell) to stay at the house. Walter promises them a share of Ella's money if they find her original will and kill Tabitha. The cat witnesses their conspiracy.

There are several episodes of mutual fear and hatred between Tabitha and the murderers/conspirators. Elizabeth can't understand it as she's always known Tabitha as a sweet cat that everyone loves. Michael believes it's because the cat knows why Ella disappeared.

After several unsuccessful attempts, Tabitha is finally caught. Andrew takes the cat to the swamp to drown it but Tabitha escapes and Andrew drowns instead. When Andrew doesn't return, the conspirators worry. Muddy paw prints presage the cat's return and terrify Clara. The maid encounters the felid on the upstairs landing, Tabitha leaps at her and Clara falls down the stairs and dies.

Jacob continues searching the attic for Ella's will. Elizabeth knows someone is up there but doesn't know who or why.

Jacob distrusts his uncle and fears "too much depends on Walter." While Walter sleeps, Jacob lets Tabitha into Walter's room. When Walter wakes and sees the cat he has a fatal heart attack. His will leaves everything to Edgar.

The police recover Andrew's body from the swamp.

Elizabeth, Michael and Inspector Rowles accuse Edgar, Jacob and Louise of conspiracy but without the original will they have no proof and Edgar orders them out of the house. As they're leaving, Jacob sees the cat and pursues it onto the roof of the house with everyone watching. Edgar takes advantage of the distraction to go to the attic and continue the search for the will. Jacob slips on the roof and falls to his death. Edgar finds the original will hidden in the wall behind a painting of Tabitha. The cat itself then appears and, in his frantic efforts to kill it, Edgar wrecks the attic and is struck and killed by a falling beam.

Tabitha leads the police to Ella's body.

Ella's original will leaves everything to Elizabeth but she tells Michael that she never wants to see the house again and asks him to take her away. The house is sold and Tabitha watches from the courtyard as a new family moves in.



Shadow of the Cat currently holds a three star rating (6.2/10) on IMDb.[5]


  1. Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007 p 59
  2. "Abbreviated View of Movie Page".
  3. Craig Butler. "The Shadow of the Cat (1961) - John Gilling - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  4. "THE SHADOW OF THE CAT". BFI. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  5. Spikeopath (7 June 1961). "The Shadow of the Cat (1961)". IMDb.

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