After the funeral for Thomas Trellington everyone gathers at the house for the reading of the will. Present are his widow Eleanor (Vanda Godsell), his daughter Mary (Natasha Pyne), his best friend Henry Fawcett (Mervyn Johns) and his three tenants Ruth Prendergast (Ellen Pollock), Janet Bowering (Mary Merrall) and Lavinia Goldsworthy (Amy Dalby). The will states that the three boarders, who are elderly woman with very small incomes, are allowed to continue to live in the house and that any rent in arrears will be waived. Both Henry and Eleanor, who is actually Mary’s step-mother, are to be trustees of Mary’s estate until she is either 21 or married. Eleanor has use of the house and everything in it as well as the income of the estate until Mary is 21, in which time everything goes to Mary.
Eleanor is an evil, greedy, bitch. She expected to get everything and is not happy about the will. Eleanor is also overbearing and a bit of a petty thief. Knowing that the elderly ladies have very small pensions, she raises their rent. She then tells Mary that she must quit school and get a job. Peter Parsons (Gregory Phillips) works for Henry and is good friends with Mary. When Eleanor sees this see sabotages his standing with Henry by stealing some small items from Henry’s shop. She then points out that the items are missing and suggests that Peter stole them. Henry believes Eleanor and fires Peter.
One evening before Christmas the ladies come home to find that Lavinia’s kitten, Tabitha, is dead. Ruth finds some un-dissolved crystals in the cat’s water bowl and comes to the conclusion that Eleanor poisoned the cat. Everyone already hates Eleanor, especially Ruth. She convinces the other two ladies to give Eleanor her comeuppance. Janet received a gift of whiskey from a relative. Knowing that Eleanor is a thief, Ruth talks Janet and Lavinia into pouring out some of the whiskey and putting in some water from Tabitha’s bowl into the bottle. They then hide the bottle knowing Eleanor will look for it and steal some of the whiskey.
Janet and Lavinia have second thoughts and replace the poisoned bottle with an untainted one. Later Eleanor is found dead, poisoned. Inspector Bruton (Conrad Phillips) is called to investigate. His investigation leads him to suspect everyone Eleanor knows. The story of the whiskey bottles comes out in dribs and drabs and the poison used ends up confusing the situation more. Bruton is tasked with sorting everything out. Before he can zero in on a culprit he needs to first figure out, who killed the cat?
“Who Killed the Cat?” was released in 1966 and was directed by Montgomery Tully. It is a British murder mystery. The film was based on the 1956 play “Tabitha” by Arnold Ridley and Mary Cathcart Borer.
The movie may be a little dated but I found it to be extremely charming. It’s not exactly heavy on the mystery but the characters in the film were all endearing and enchanting. I found it reminiscent of the style of subtle yet amusing humor similar to that of “The Lady Killers” 1955 and perhaps even “Arsenic and Old Lace” 1944. The stories may be very different but the underlying humor and matter of fact logic by the “little old ladies” portrays them as slightly pixilated. It was fun to watch.