The Shadow of the Cat

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 Shadow of the Cat
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Gilling
Produced byJon Penington
Written byGeorge Baxt
StarringAndré Morell
Barbara Shelley
William Lucas
Freda Jackson
Conrad Phillips
Music byMikis Theodorakis
CinematographyArthur Grant
Edited byJames Needs
John Pomeroy
Distributed byRank Organisation (United Kingdom)
Universal International (United States)
Release date
1 May 1961
Running time
79 mins
CountryUnited Kingdom

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 1900s England, wealthy and elderly Ella Venable (Catherine Lacey) is murdered in her manor house by Andrew the butler (Andrew Crawford), and her body is buried on the grounds of the estate by Andrew in collusion with Ella's husband, Walter Venable (André Morell), and Clara the maid (Freda Jackson).

Tabitha, Ella's tabby cat, is the only witness to the murder and burial, and instinctively understands that its mistresses' death was a crime. The murderers realize the cat's comprehension and resolve to kill it.

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 his inheritance.

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."

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.

Beth and Michael are old friends from when she used to live with her Aunt Ella, and as the story progresses they become increasingly close.

While searching for the will, Walter has an accident in the structurally unsound attic, followed by an encounter with Tabitha that gives him a cat-induced heart attack. Bedridden and unable to continue the search for the will, 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 the house. He 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 unsuccessful attempts to capture and kill Tabitha. One such attempt results in Andrew and Clara's deaths by cat-related accidents.

Based on Tabitha's behavior and other clues, Beth, Michael and Inspector Rowles correctly suspect Ella's murder but have no firm supporting evidence.

Jacob continues to search the attic for Ella's will but, fearing "too much depends on Walter," turns on his uncle. He lets Tabitha into Walter's bedroom. When Walter sees the cat, he has a second, fatal heart attack. His will leaves everything to Edgar.

Beth, Michael and Inspector Rowles accuse the remaining villains of conspiracy but without the original will they have no proof. Edgar, now owner of the manor, orders them out of the house. As they're leaving, Jacob sees Tabitha and pursues the cat onto the roof with everyone watching.

Edgar uses the distraction to go to the attic and continue searching for the will.

Jacob slips on the roof and falls to his death.

Edgar finds the original will hidden in the attic wall behind a painting of Tabitha. Then the cat itself appears and Edgar tries frantically to kill it. His efforts wreck the attic and he is struck and killed by a falling beam.

Tabitha leads the police to Ella's body.

The original will leaves everything to Beth 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 — husband, wife, daughter and grandfather — move in. The grandfather complains that he'll probably die of boredom living there, while the husband and wife talk of convincing the old man to change his will.



  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.
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