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Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension


 

Fureign Correspondent, or...

The Uncanny (1977)

Written by Michel Parry
Directed by Denis Héroux
Details at the IMDB, US.IMDB

Anyone who takes home a cat should be prepared to be possessed by it.
- Anonymous, but attributed to Mark Twain

Apostic has been very tired lately, and now he's gone on a long vacation.  I've decided to help him out by writing one of these articles for him.

They call me Mr. Peeve.  I'm a cat.

For a long time, I've been watching silly movies with my humans.  I've become something of an expert on these stories, and now I'd like to share with you my observations regarding one of them in particular.

You see, we cats don't have it good in movies very often.  During the 1940's and thereafter, several cartoons anthropomorphized us.  (Made us look and act like humans.  Try a dictionary sometime.)  And we were often demonized.  We were presented as cowardly crooks or bullies.  Bad things almost always happened to cats.  Even when a cat was well behaved, something bad was likely to happen to him.  Mice and birds and oversized dogs tended to have some kind of positive karma that always eluded us.

We finally got some good media exposure in the mid 1960's, when there were a few movies that tried to see things from our point of view.  But that didn't last long.  Humans got tired of monsters that looked human, so they started using cats for monsters in their stories.  

And so we are here at this movie....

Contents

The Plot

Montreal Present Day (Introduction)

After a quote from Ted Hughes ("He leaps and lightly walks upon sleep, his mind on the moon...."  Classy?  You decide.  The rest is in a piece called "Esther's Tomcat."), go to opening credits (white over various watercolors of cats, with somber ambient orchestral music.  Wake me when this is over.).  Go to a townhouse at night with the caption "Montreal - Present Day."  Outside, a black cat looks at a window.  Inside, writer Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) looks out through the window.  After a while, Gray goes for a walk carrying a satchel.  And he walks.  And he walks.  (The tension builds, maybe.  The music editor seemed to think this was a tense scene.)  Someone jumps out of nowhere (stage right) and asks him for a match.  (Oooh, scary-scary!)  During all this, a black cat with green eyes has been following Gray.   (Or rather, we are constantly shown the cat.  For someone following a man at night, this cat's pupils are remarkably constricted.)

Gray arrives at the home of Frank Richards (Ray Milland).  Instead of being the perpetual child of the Fantastic Four, this one is a middle-aged book publisher.  Richards is all hosty congeniality to Gray.  The timid author accepts this, but the publisher's roommate, a white Persian called Sugar, meows loudly at him.  (The man calls his tomcat "Sugar."  ::Shudder::)  Gray is frightened.  (Yeah.  What kind of a man gives a tom cat such a prissy name?)  Richards tells him not to worry; Sugar is well behaved, and Richards is interested in Gray's book because of Sugar.

The writer is excited in the publisher's interest, but Richards says he's not convinced enough about this book to publish it.  Gray reminds him that his books on flying saucers and the pyramids are now taken seriously.  (Not answered in this story: The people who take his books seriously, are they taken seriously?)  Richards asks the writer if he really believes the stories in his books.  Gray eyes Sugar and says yes.  But the publisher suggests that there may be other explanations for the events in this book.  For example, the Malkin case....
  

London 1912

A bedridden middle-aged woman called Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) reads a book through a magnifying glass.  Enter her maid Janet (Susan Penhaligon), who announces the arrival of solicitor Wallace (Roland Culver).  He has to sidestep several happy cats to get to Miss Malkin.  After he settles in, he begins to discuss business.  However, Miss Malkin interrupts his presentation to tell Janet to leave.

Janet goes downstairs.  Along the way, she pauses to pick up a few cats and carries them into the kitchen.  She opens the pot and dishes it out some unidentified red substance for the cats.  (Looks suspiciously like corned beef hash.)  They're all over it.  (OK, probably not corned beef hash.)

Upstairs, Wallace asks Miss Malkin if she's sure she wants to change her will.  She's sure.  As far as she's concerned, her nephew Michael has already squandered his share of his inheritance.  Everything else she still has is going to her cats.  (Huzzah!  A reasonable woman!)  The part that bothers her the most is that she won't be able to see the look on his face at the reading of the will.

Outside the bedroom, the solicitor makes small talk with Janet.  Miss Malkin calls him back.  He leaves his satchel in the hall.  Janet starts going through it.  After a moment, she spies into the bedroom and sees Miss Malkin giving Wallace her copy of the will to put into the wall safe near the bed.  The combination is in her little journal.

At a fancy restaurant, Janet shows Michael (Simon Williams) the copy of the will she pilfered from the lawyer's briefcase.  (She said "lawyer."  Being an American shorthair, I admit some ignorance of English legal terms.  I thought "lawyer," as opposed to "solicitor," was a North American thing.  Didin't Agatha Christie make that a subtlle clue once?)  The nefarious nephew isn't happy.  He tears up the will.  Janet tells him that the other copy is in the safe.  He says he needs to destroy it.  She knows where his aunt keeps the combination.

Janet returns home.  On the upstairs landing, a cat watches her while she comes up the stairs and goes to Miss Malkin's room.  (Or rather, we are treated to some nice shots of a patchy tabby inter-cut with shots of Janet.)  She sneaks up to sleeping lady, gets her little journal, and peeks inside.  Then she goes to safe and quietly opens it.  She looks back.  Miss Malken is still asleep.  (My, what quiet safes they have in these parts.)  However, the patchy tabby jumps onto the bed.  Janet is too busy finding the copy of the will to notice that Miss Malkin is now awake.  She drops the copy of the will when her employer denounces her and announces that she is about to call the police.  (We cats often use intimidation, too.  However, it doesn't work very well when the intimidatee doesn't agree to back down.)  Janet sorrowfully says she has to do this for Michael and suffocates the lady with the pillow.  (See what I mean?)

Several cats in the room freak out and hiss.  (Hey, where did these guys come from?)  Other cats charge furiously into the room.  (Or rather, happy cats looking for food enter the room.  Their tail language betrays them. Definitely not method actors.)  Janet jumps onto the bed to avoid the cats below.  (I'm not sure with what's keeping these guys off the bed.  No, wait.  I know.  It's In The Script.)  Janet reaches down for the will, but a cat swats her hand (as opposed to "cat jumps on hand and rakes it to shreds."  It's a movie made by a human, so it's no surprise the cats fight like humans.).

Janet carefully steps out of the room.  A couple of cats go en garde but let her leave.  She moves quickly down the stairs, but as soon as she's into the foyer at the bottom of the stairs, she encounters several threatening cats.  (Or rather, we are treated to several shots of relaxed cats while the camera zooms in on their pleasant faces and the sound editor adds some caterwauling.)

Suddenly, several cats leap from the railed landing above the foyer and attack her.  (Or rather, we are shown several shots of cats leaping from the railing followed by a shot of a couple of tossed cats landing on the maid's shoulders.  Maybe those are supposed to be the same cats.  Hopefully the stunt cats they used for that shot enjoyed that game.)  The cats savage her with their sharp claws.  (Or rather, a couple of cats try to climb around on her back while she avoids moving so much they'd jump off.)  Her white blouse is streaked with blood.  She shakes the cats loose, runs into the pantry, and blocks the door closed.  Outside, several cats come running in horrifying pursuit.  (Or rather, several of the same cats we've seen earlier come running with happy tails in the air.)

Now trapped inside the pantry, Janet bandages her scratches and reorganizes her instant prison.  She finds some bread.  While eating, she looks outside and sees the milkman making a delivery.  (No idea here why she doesn't cry out for help.)  She has a flashback to the restaurant with Michael, followed by one of the copy of the will on the bedroom floor.  (The document is not stained with blood.  Purity in vision or poor continuity?  You decide.)  An unseen postman deposits mail through a door slot.  A few of the cats play with the mail, shredding and chewing a few pieces.  (Darn junk mail!  And if there are any marketers reading, this is why you shouldn't distribute free samples of cat treats in the mail.)

Time passes.  Night.  Michael sits in a coach looking at the house.  He sees a policeman and quietly leaves (as silently as a horse-drawn carriage in a dead still neighborhood allows).

Day.  Janet languishes in the pantry.  She licks one of her wounds.  (To tend it or for sustenance, we can't tell.  The tense musical cue suggests it wasn't due to boredom.)  Outside, a cat knocks over the full milk can.  (Insert your own "crying over" jape here.  Also, consider how such a small animal pushing over such a heavy container is no little cat feat.)

More later.  Oblivious to the milky way outside, Janet opens a crock of mince for cats, spreads some onto some bread, takes a bite, and gags.  (Guess that ruined a perfectly good crust of bread for her.)

More later again.  Janet peeps out of the pantry and into the hall and decides the coast is clear.  Carrying the knife, she moves carefully into the foyer.  No cats.  She has another flashback of Michael at the restaurant.  (Maybe they put that there to let us know why she doesn't just leave.  Cripes, I'm just a stupid cat, but I get that without the flashback.)

Up the stairs she goes, knife out in front of her. In the bedroom, she finds the will where it fell.  A cat is sitting on it.  The telephone rings and it freaks Janet out.  It's the lawyer Wallace who's soliciting a response, but Janet doesn't answer; she's a bit preoccupied at the moment.  She starts to reach for the will but drops the knife when she sees the bed.

Old Miss Malkin.  She's been feeding the cats.

Janet decides it's time to leave.  She trips over a (conveniently placed) cat and falls down the stairs.  Several cats leap from the railing overhead and gang up on her.  (We've seen this routine already and now find it less convincing.)  The telephone rings again, but Janet's a tad preoccupied once more.

In his office, Wallace hangs up the phone.  He tells Michael they're going to the house.  And they'll be stopping at a police station along the way.

Michael, Wallace, and a policeman enter the house.  They see Janet lying motionless at the foot of the stairs.  (Apparently not expecting company, she is a mess.)  Michael deftly ignores the shredded servant and heads upstairs.  (He does pause to take off his jacket, but from the way the scene is presented, we can't tell if he tosses his jacket over the corpse or the banister.  Either gesture might further define his character.)

In the bedroom, Michael sees the will on the floor.  He walks toward it.  (He seems undisturbed by the human-sized example of how his aunt really did leave it all to the cats.)  A cat pushes the door closed (sort of).  Another cat leaps from the bed canopy to Michael's throat.  The evil cad violently struggles with the hellish creature at his throat.  (Or rather, the actor briefly twists around while holding up to his neck what looks like a plush toy cat.)  Wallace and a policeman arrive a short moment later and find Michael motionless on the floor.  (He's completely still and there's very little blood on the floor.  Must've been a head injury.  On his throat.  Yeah.  That's it.  That's the ticket….)
  

Montreal Present Day (Interlude)

The publisher tells the writer that it's all very understandable.  The cats were hungry.  The idea that cats were committing an act of vengeance is too far-fetched.  The writer reaches into his satchel to get more evidence, but he is distracted when the publisher gets up to let Sugar (::shudder::) outside to do his business.  (Could the publisher not afford a cat box for his foo-foo cat, or was the screenwriter a dog owner who didn't know for such things?  You decide.)

The writer looks outside and sees Sugar getting face to face with another cat.  (Sugar and the other cat are asserting their presence toward each other.  It's something we do when meeting a someone who hasn't been approved.)  He calls the publisher over to the window, but by the time he gets there, the other cat is gone.  The writer gives up trying to convince the publisher that the Sugar was talking to another cat.  After both humans turn away from the window, Sugar gets face to face with three other cats.  (Seriously, face-assertion is not that mysterious a ritual for anyone who knows cats.  I am amused that whoever made this movie is so mystified by it that he thinks other humans would be frightened by it.)

Back to business.  The publisher asks the writer about the story of the little girl.  The writer pulls out some photographs from his satchel.  One of them is a portrait of a young girl in a large knit cap.
  

Quebec Province 1975

An older woman drives a car through the country.  Sitting to her right is a quiet young girl (Katrina Holden) with a wicker basket in her lap.  They arrive at a house.  Another young girl (Chloe Franks) spies on them from an upstairs window.

Downstairs, Mrs. Joan Blake (Alexandra Stewart), the lady of the house, greets the visitors.  The visiting lady introduces herself as Nora Parker from child services.  And the girl with her is Lucy.  This will be Lucy's new home; Mrs. Blake is a surviving blood relative.  And then Lucy introduces her friend Wellington.  She opens the basket and lifts out a happy black cat.  Mrs. Blake is not happy.

Enter the girl who was watching the arrival from upstairs.  Mrs. Blake tells her to show Lucy to her room.  (We aren't told her name.  We'll be referring to her as Princess Generic.)  Upstairs in Lucy's room, Princess Generic snootily tells Lucy that her own room is much nicer than this one because she belongs here.

In the living room, Mrs. Blake expresses concern about the cat to the social worker and Mr. Blake (Donald Pilon)..  Ms. Parker says that after Lucy lost her parents in the plane crash, the cat is the only remaining link to her past life.  Losing the cat would be a bad thing.

Upstairs, Wellington watches Lucy unpack.  She pulls out an 8x10 of her and her mother plus a few contemporary books on the black arts.  Enter Mrs. Blake, who disapproves of these books, which were Lucy's mother's.

Mrs. Blake reluctantly feeds the cat in the kitchen.  Princess Generic (who has changed into a yellow jumper) enters and watches the cat eat.  She asks her mother if she could have a cat, too.  Mrs. Blake says no.  Princess Generic asks why can Lucy have a cat and not her.  Her mother says it's because Lucy's parents died in plane crash.  Angels gets a feel for the negotiating points in play and asks, "If you and daddy were killed in a plane crash, could I have a cat then?"  (We aren't shown her response.)

Later, Princess Generic, Lucy, and Wellington are in a room with lots of toys and decorations.  (We assume this to be the much-touted Princess Generic's Room.  Can't help but notice that Princess Generic has changed from her bright yellow jumper in the last scene to a brown sweater.)  Lucy pets Wellington.  Princess Generic says it's her time to play with Wellington.  Lucy says no.  Princess Generic stands over Lucy and tells her to stand up, too.  Lucy comes up to about Princess Generic's chest.  Princess Generic points out this obvious difference in stature and cites it as a precedent for implied order; i.e., "You're smaller than me so you must do what I say."  She takes Wellington away from Lucy.  But Wellington viciously hisses at Princess Generic and leaps out of her bewildered grasp.  (Or rather, the sound editor added the sound of a cat hiss to a shot of actress letting go of the cat.)  Lucy picks up Wellington, holds him up to her ear, and tells Princess Generic that he isn't her friend.

Sometime later, everyone (except maybe Wellington) is at dinner.  (Can't help but notice that Princess Generic has changed from her brown sweater in the last scene to a bright yellow jumper. What the…?)  Mrs. Blake tells the girls she wants them to play in the sunroom today.  And so they are there one scene transition later.  (We needed that dinner scene because...why?)  The girls occupy their time by painting pictures of Wellington.  Lucy finishes hers and wants to show it to Aunty Jo.  She tells Wellington that she'll be right back and leaves.

Princess Generic goes to pick up Wellington again, but no go; he darts under few tables and chairs with Princess Generic in pursuit.  The frustrated girl stamps her feet and bumps a table.  A small bottle of red paint falls to the floor and splatters.  Enter Mrs. Blake, who sees the mess on the floor.  Not having any goats in the room, Princess Generic quickly settles for a cat and lays the blame upon Wellington.  Mrs. Blake makes Lucy clean up the mess while telling her that if the cat makes one more mess, away he goes.

Some other time later, the girls are in Princess Generic's room.  (Can't help but notice that Princess Generic has changed back again from that yellow jumper to that brown sweater.  Not entirely sure, but it could be that the scenes with the yellow jumper were some kind of flashback from the scenes with the girls in Princess Generic's room.  That, or someone was dead asleep at the wheel of the Continuity-Mobile™.  Whichever makes the most sense….)  While Lucy plays with Wellington, Princess Generic plays with a toy airplane.  She says she and her father made this.  Then she terrorizes Lucy by "dive-bombing" her a few times with the toy airplane.  Lucy cowers in fear.

Fade to... Lucy playing with Wellington while Princess Generic watches.  OK, this time Lucy and Wellington are outside while Princess Generic watches them from a window.  Mr. Blake arrives and plays with Lucy briefly.  Princess Generic doesn't seem to like this.  After Mr. Blake goes inside, Princess Generic picks up a big, piston driven model airplane.  She starts it up, launches it from the window, and picks up a remote control.  Lucy sees the plane coming at her. Princess Generic "dive-bombs" Lucy and Wellington a few times.  (Yiff!  What a bunch of Johnny-One-Notes.  We also can hear the model airplane making what sound like real airplane noises on each pass.  And this observation can distract you from noticing the mysterious brief return of the airplane sitting in front of Princess Generic in one of the shots in sequence.  The Continuity-Mobile™ has run off the road.)  Lucy, carrying Wellington, runs toward the house, occasionally dropping to the ground to avoid the plane.  Princess Generic loses control of the plane and it flies off into the distance.  Lucy runs inside the house.  The plane crashes into the wall next to the door.  (Huh?)

Lucy, muddy and disheveled, passes through the living room, where Mr. and Mrs. Blake are sitting.  Mrs. Blake sees her.  Princess Generic enters from the side and says that Lucy is a mess because the cat made her fall into the mud.  (Who would have thought Princess Generic told dirty stories?)  Lucy tries to set this right, but Mrs. Blake tells her to go up and change now.  Then she tells Princess Generic to leave for a moment.  (Actually, she tells somebody called "Angela" to do this, so we guess that's the name for Princess Generic.)  As soon as they are alone, Mrs. Blake tells Mr. Blake that the cat has got to go.  Mr. Blake disagrees, but Mrs. Blake presses the point.  She says she knows a place that will take care of it.  (Humans euphemize euthanizing.)

The next morning (maybe), Lucy wakes up and can't find Wellington.  He's in the back of a station wagon that's driving away.  Later, Lucy looks around for Wellington, calling his name.  Princess Generic, er, Angela mocks Lucy and tells her that Wellington was sold to the butchers to be turned into dog meat.  Lucy runs away in tears while Angela laughs satisfied.

Evening. Lucy is in bed again.  The door opens.  Mrs. Blake creeps in quietly and takes away Lucy's stash of amateur magic books.  Into the downstairs fireplace they go, along with Lucy's picture of her mother.

Lucy hears a meow and wakes up.  She opens the door.  Yes, it's Wellington, who got away from the big sleep.  While Wellington parades back and forth happily on the dresser, Lucy asks him what will they do?  Wellington jumps onto the bed and nuzzles the one book Mrs. Blake missed earlier -- the old black one that was under the pillow.  Lucy picks it up.  She walks out of the room and down the hall, picking up useful items along the way.

In her own room, Angela sees light in the sunroom.  (Well, duh!)  She checks on Lucy, who is not in her room.  So she walks over to the sunroom.  She's surprised to see Wellington and curious about the one-meter diameter pentagram on the floor that Lucy is drawing by candlelight.  When finished, Lucy tells Angela she can watch, but that she should not stand in the circle.  Therefore, Angela stands in the circle.  (Born and bred in the briar patch...)

Lucy begins pronouncing a few foreign mystic words.  (Domestic entreaties to elder entities aren't effective displays of conspicuous consumption.)  Angela decides she is bored with this game and turns to leave, but she runs into an invisible barrier keeping her inside the circle.  Lucy continues the reading of the mystic will.  Angela gets small.  (Given what this movie has shown us so far, it's a surprisingly effective effect)

Angela is now about three inches tall.  Lucy and the Wellington lean over her to illustrate the obvious change in the pecking order and food chain.  Angela runs (because now, for some unexplained reason, she can).  She seeks cover under a couch (or something like that; can't tell).  But Lucy reaches in from one direction, and Wellington closes in from the other side.  Angela picks up a now relatively gigantic artist's brush and wields it as a pike against the colossal kitty cat.  Apparently not only is the pen mightier than the sword, but the brush is pointier than the cat.  The injured feline backs away with a few drops of red next to one eye.

Angela comes out and tries to play Let's Make a Deal.  Lucy hears Mrs. Blake coming and decides Game Over.  While Wellington holds the hem of Angela's nightgown to the ground with one paw, Lucy slowly and deliberately shows Angela the bottom of her shoe hard.

Enter Mrs. Blake.  She's predictably agitated about the mess, especially a glob of what she believes to be red paint again.  While wiping it up, she says, "Why can't you be more like Angela?  She never puts a foot wrong."  (This is the apex of this movie's wit.  Enjoy.)
  

Montreal Present Day (Interlude)

The publisher is still not persuaded.  Children vanish all the time.  She'll be found eventually.  The writer begins to disagree but is interrupted and freaked out by the sound of a cat meowing.  The publisher goes to the door to let Sugar in.  While the cat enters (freaking out the writer further), the publisher tells the cat he gets no more milk tonight; he should go on a diet.  (Did you know that most adult cats are lactose intolerant?)

The writer rants more about how cats are always watching and making sure humans behave.  (Well, there is some watching.)  The publisher requires more proof.  The writer asks the publisher if he remembers the De'ath case.  (He pronounces it "dee-ath.")  While asserting that it was the cat that did it, he produces a photo of De'ath (Donald Pleasance).  (Actually, this a publicity still of Mr. Pleasence as the eye-scarred Ernst Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.  They were too cheap to make a new publicity still?  And too sure the audience was too ignorant to notice?)
  

Hollywood 1936

A lady (Catherine Bégin) has been tied to a tabletop.  She is surrounded by a few extras in medieval costumes.  Enter De'ath, wearing a leather cap.  (And, of course, he doesn't have the eye scar in the publicity photo.)  The extras leave.  De'ath tells his captive audience to give up her lands.  No go, so De'ath starts up a pendulum (per certain Poe inspired movies).  It eventually swings low to the lady on the table.

"Cut" shouts Barrington (Jean LeClerc), the director on this set.  (Average movie deriders would've shouted "Cut!" already.)  Pomeroy (John Vernon), the producer, says that it didn't look realistic enough.  The director castigates the actress Madeline for being too melodramatic.  Madeline's not very responsive.  Ooops.  It seems she was unexpectedly doing some extreme method acting on her last scene ever.

Later, in the producer's office, a detective (Sean McCann) tells Pomeroy that there was a mix-up in the prop department.  A real blade was accidentally substituted for the fake blade.  (And, apparently, idiot stagehands were substituted for real stagehands.)  The investigators are dropping the case.  The producer thanks the detective and invites him to see the movie when it's finished.  The detective says he doesn't like horror movies because of all the blood.  (Guess it was supposed to be a wry, subtle, self-conscious gag.  But blood?  In a horror movie made in America in 1936?)

Exit the detective.  The producer and director wonder how they're going to finish the picture without the female lead.  (They were going to kill the apparently normal female lead character?  Oh, right. It's in the script.)  Enter De'ath.  After a few (hammy) lines of mourning, he tells them that he has a solution to their problem.  He introduces them to Edina (Samantha Eggar), his wife's stand-in.  (The producer and the director never saw their lead actress's stand-in before now?)  De'ath calls attention to Edina's strong resemblance to Madeline; they may not have to re-shoot.  (Strong resemblance?  Edina would very strongly resemble Madeline if they left the lens cap on.)  The director and producer like the idea.

That night at the house of De'ath, Edina and De'ath enter.  As soon as he closes the door, he's all over her like a cheap coat.  He rhetorically asks, what would the neighbors think?  She suggests they might think he was the one that switched the pendulum blade--because that's what happened.

Edina sees a cat sitting next to the bottom of the stairs and gets all cutesy.  She exclaims, "I tot I thaw a putty tat!  I did!  I did thee a putty tat!"  (Cartoon trivia heads please note: it wasn't until a few years later that the "Tot I thaw a putty tat" catchphrase was introduced in "A Tale of Two Kitties (1942)."  And it wasn't until a few more years later that the "I did" was appended.)  She picks up the cat (who is not digging this) and asks what his name is.  De'ath holds his arms up in surrendering disgust and says this cat, which belonged to Madeline, is named Scat.  She puts Scat down.  He shouts Scat while kicking his foot.  The cat, terrified, runs away.  (Or rather, the camera stays well above the knee on Pleasence while the sound editor adds a cat hiss.)  De'ath picks up Edina (who is at least pretending to dig this) and carries her up the stairs.  Cut to a shot of the cat (suddenly back where he was earlier, at the foot of the stairs).

Middle of the night.  De'ath and Edina wake to sound of a caterwaul.  They go downstairs and find Scat, who has just given birth to a litter of kittens into a cushiony cat bed basket.  (Funny.  Scat didn't look preggers.)  De'ath reaches for the basket, and Scat rakes his hand.  De'ath reaches for the basket, and Scat doesn't rake his hand.  (Huh?)  He picks up the cat bed with kittens. Edina asks De'ath what he's going to do.  He leaves the room and says baptism by immersion.  Cue sound of toilet flushing.  (Fine.  Now there will be urban legends among city humans about wild cats living in the sewers.)

Next morning.  Death gets in his car and leaves while Scat watches from a window.  Later at the studio, the director calls for action.  De'ath and another guy fence.  Off the set, Edina half-watches the action while reading a comic book (and the artwork looks very un-1930's).  In the rafters above the set, Scat is watching the action more attentively.  De'ath lingers under a stage light.  Scat walks via the rafters to a thin rope attached to the light and begins to chew it.  (We can clearly see a bit of meat stuck to the place where Scat is chewing.  Scat is not a method actor.)  In a few seconds, the line parts.  (A domestic cat can chew through rope so fast?)  The light falls straight down.  It misses De'ath.  (There were a couple of other lines on the light.  How did the light fall down straight?  How did the production company miss that?  Why am I asking you?)

De'ath and Edina return home.  The cat is sitting next to the stairs.  (Or rather, this is the third time they've cut to this same old "cat next to the stairs" shot.)  De'ath runs at the cat.  (And in this shot, the same old cat next to the stairs has apparently turned invisible.  They couldn't get the cat to stand there for this scene?  Score another one for the production company's attention to detail.)  Cue silly madcap music.  De'ath chases Scat into the kitchen and falls over lots of furniture.  (Your standards of comedy may vary.)  Scat gets away.

Later, De'ath and Edina discover that their bed has been ripped to shreds.  (Bet you didn't think a cat could do that in such a short period of time.  It's true.  But it'd take a big cat, like a lion.  Maybe Scat has a friend at the zoo?  We digress.)  De'ath asks rhetorically what it was that killed the cat.  Edina helpfully answers, "curiosity."  (At least she didn't say "toilet.")

Cut to the kitchen.  Edina winds up a toy mechanical mouse and lets it go.  Scat looks down from a counter.  The mouse goes directly to a door, pushes it open, and follows the bottom edge of the door to the opening.  (Who knew toy mice were so powerful, predictable, and accurate?)  On the other side of the door, De'ath waits with a large butterfly net.  Scat runs through the open doorway.  Edina follows.  After the sound of caterwaul, cut to De'ath looking into his net and cue sound of the mechanical mouse.  (We are not shown the contents of the net, so we'll have to assume that, since there is more story, he didn't catch Scat.  But to their credit, the whole thing was a "curiosity.")

Later, De'ath leaves the house while Scat watches.  (Hey, we saw this part already!)  In the kitchen, Scat looks down from a counter.  (Hey, we saw this shot already, too.  Recycling is important, but geez!)  On the kitchen floor is a small bowl of milk.  It is surrounded by a couple of steel-jawed animal traps plus a box trap.  (One of the jaw traps is baited with a whole fish sitting on top of the trigger pad.  That's a lot of weight.  You think the added fractional weight of a cat pulling a fish off this silly contraption is going to set it off?)

At the studio, they're positioning Edina on a set with an unfriendly looking device.  This one looks like a casket standing up on its end.  It has lots of crude spikes lining the inside plus a few on the inside of the lid.  The director poses her Edina inside this contraption and tells her to scream her lungs out as the spikes approach.  He also reminds De'ath not to let go of cable, and then calls action on this rehearsal.  De'ath slowly cranks a wheel.  (It takes a lot of imagining to accept this is attached to the cable.)  The lid slowly closes.  (And it takes a lot of imagining to accept that so much wheel movement gives so little lid movement.)  Edina cutely screams, "Eeeeeee!" The director is unimpressed.  Edina explains that she doesn't feel scared, especially since the back of this contraption opens.  She demonstrates, pushing it open like the back door that it is.  The director decides they'll save this shot for tomorrow and tells the crew to set up for the love scene.

Back at house in the kitchen, Scat sits among the traps looking them over.  (He doesn't do anything.  Can't think of why the filmmakers put this shot in here aside from showing that they could get a cat to sit next to these goofy deathtraps.  On the other hand, I will take this opportunity to say what the guys at Stomp Tokyo would jokingly say at this moment: Mouse Hunt so ripped this off.)

And back at the studio again, the director calls for action.  De'ath and Edina stand together hand in hand, although De'ath must pause to reposition Edina's fingers.  However, the actress looks up into the rafters and sees Scat.  She screams, and this time it's a real good scream. (What the hell?  Scat was just in a house a car drive's distance away.  Can Scat teleport?)  Off to the side, the producer Pomeroy sinks down and mumbles, "Why me?"  (Aw, don't worry, Mr. Vernon.  You'll be in plenty of other awful movies.)

Pomeroy pulls De'ath aside and expresses his doubts about Edina.  He wants to recast.  De'ath offers to stay late with her to help her get it right.  The actor assures the director she'll be ready by morning.

Later.  While De'ath removes his makeup from the day's shoot, Scat looks at a few things on the set.  She is particularly interested in the spiked coffin contraption.

More later.  De'ath tells Edina it's time to practice the iron maiden scene.  (Iron Maiden?  Excellent!)  He leads her to that spiked coffin contraption.  (Bogus….)  She gets in.  He slowly closes the lid while coaching her acting, but no go; she still screams cutely.  He says he'll show her how it's done and takes her place.  While framed by the spikes, he violently overacts some horror while Edina looks on adoringly.  (Out of prior respect for Mr. Pleasance's usually understated style, we assume this was supposed to be funny.  He holds up his end of the deal for the gag; the movie isn't matching him.)

They switch again.  De'ath slowly closes the lid on Edina.  She sees Scat and cuts loose with an awesome scream.  Scat jumps down from rafters and hits De'ath.  The surprised actor lets go of the line.  (Well, who didn't see anything like this coming?  Anyone?  Anyone at all?)  The wheel spins quickly around and around.  (Once again, you have to work hard to believe it takes this much line for about three feet of door movement.)  Case closed.

De'ath goes over to the casket contraption and opens it about an inch.  It's a mess in there.  He checks the back door; it's been latched shut.  After a moment, he picks up a poleax and chases Scat.  (Tail language betrays it all again; the cat playing Scat is a happy cat.)  Scat runs around the corner with De'ath in pursuit.  Cue lots of caterwauling.

Cut to a shot of the stage doors opening.  Pomeroy enters the studio saying good morning.  (For a simple narrative passage of time, a direct cut is an ill-advised transition.)  The producer sees De'ath sitting in a chair and asks how rehearsal went.  De'ath says nothing.  What's a matter? asks Pomeroy.  "Cat got your tongue?"  That's when the producer sees the glob of blood trailing from the mouth of motionless De'ath.  (We would praise this other high-point of this movie's wit if the punchline wasn't so freely borrowed (and uncredited) from an old Robert Bloch story.)
  

Montreal Present Day (Conclusion)

The publisher says there could a dozen other explanations.  The writer insists that the cat fits with what has been happening for centuries.  All the evidence is in the satchel with his manuscript.  He hands it to the publisher and tells him to guard it with life.  And now he has to go because he doesn't like being out after dark.  The publisher puts the satchel down and goes to see him out.

While pausing at the doorway, the writer says that people used to think that a cat was the Devil in disguise.  (Oh, sure.  But they don't make movies like Zoltan, Cat of Satan, do they?)  The publisher tells the writer that he'll let him know.  After his guest has left,  the publisher sees Sugar sitting on the satchel.  He picks it up, sits down, and reads.

Outside, the writer passes under a few cats in the trees.  He climbs a few stairs, but is ambushed by several cats jumping on him from above.  (It's as unconvincing as the other pouncing cat attacks in this movie.)  He struggles with the cats, but eventually falls and rolls to a dead stop.

Meanwhile, the publisher sits in his chair while Sugar watches him.  He gets up in a trance and puts the satchel into the fire.  (We assume some form of cat hypnosis happens here.  That, or he's sleepwalking and doing what he's been subconsciously wanting to do this whole movie.)  He leaves the room while sugar watches the fire.  After a moment, the publisher returns with a bottle of milk and a bowl.  He congenially laughs and tells the cat that he can't deny him anything.  Cut back to the dead writer.  Fade in a red tint and a caption quote from Giles Lytton Strachey: "And gaze into your gazing eyes / And wonder in a demi-dream..." (Classy?  You decide.  But if you want to look it up, it's from "The Cat", and omit the "Giles."  Roll end credits.)

  

The Good Stuff

A Good Cast is Worth Retaining

Several cult film icons are present, and most them were regulars in horror anthology movies.  So this movie gains some audience specific star power.  And it's also good casting.  Two standouts were the practical craftsmanship of Peter Cushing as a frightened, paranoid intellectual and the parody by antithetic character of Donald Pleasense as a self-important overacting ham.
  

Set-Ups

One of the advantages of making a small movie with the cooperation of a big studio is the leftover factor.  You can get some good casting because you've already got some good contacts with actors who aren't doing anything that week.  In particular, you can have access to some good sets, props, and costumes.

Two of the stories in this anthology - "London 1912" and "Hollywood 1936" - have a strong sense of material style to match the remoteness of their time periods.  In particular, the sets and costumes for ante Victorian England are relatively plush and sincere.  They work toward countering horror movie incredulity.

The oversized props ("maxiatures" if you will) particularly surprised us in the "Quebec Province 1975" story. Since this story had a relatively recent and nearby (to the filmmakers) setting, the sets and props were drab and mundane compared to the other two stories.  With lowered expectations, weird sets catch you off guard.

A downside of such a "leftover" arrangement is that the audience may think that the filmmakers are using things just because they are available.  There are a few places in the movie where a scene or a shot feels out of place and you want to ask, "Why was that there?"  A possible answer becomes, they wanted to show that they had a prop/costume/set for it.  And while on this point, we feel that the "Quebec Province 1975" contained the most effective sequence because the filmmakers were making more of an effort to tell a story instead of relying on some elaborate trappings to do all the entertaining.

  

The Bad Stuff

Unconvincing Cats

The cats are not very convincing as scary animals in this movie.  As noted various times in the plot description, it's all in the body language.  The cat handler for this movie must've treated his cats well, and for that, we're happy.  (I'm a cat, too.  Remember?)  Scenes that were supposed to have contented cats are credible.  Scenes with cats that were supposed to be scary have to rely on sound to tell the audience that these happy looking cats are an attacking menace.
  

Unoriginal

Aside from the framing story, each part in this anthology has story elements seen in previous movies and short stories.  They could have all been striking coincidences, but we don't think any of these would be honest homage.

"London 1912" is very much like a merge of Shadow of the Cat (1961) and Eye of the Cat (1969).  (See the "Roots and Shoots" section below for details.)

"Quebec Province 1975" had a plot very much like the "Sweets to the Sweets" chapter from another anthology movie, The House That Dripped Blood (1970).  And the climatic sequence looks like it was "inspired" by specific scenes in The Incredible Shrinking Man.

"Hollywood 1936" had two gimmicks seen previously.  First, the iron maiden bit was presented, almost exactly, in a Warren comic book a few years previous.  The only differences were: It was a man that got spiked, it was a real iron maiden (as opposed to that wooden box thing), and after it was over, the offending cat lapped up the blood leaking from the bottom.  (We suspect that the Warren publication was doing an illustrated version of a credited story that was much older.  We've not been able to find and cite this.)  Second, as noted in the plot description, Robert Bloch already used the "cat got your tongue" jape in a short story called "Catnip" (1948).  It was retold, properly credited, in 1981 on the TV series The Darkoom.  It was another "cat gets revenge" story with a more effective set-up for the pun; a cat paws around the inside of the victim's mouth while someone in the next room shouts the punchline.

People who love horror and make horror films usually will not carelessly rip off earlier horror films.  That's out of respect to the fans.  This movie doesn't show respect to the fans.
  

Problematic Editing

Although a movie may have nice sets and props and actors and such, one shortcoming in a movie that will amuse an attentive audience is problematic editing.  That's not to say the editor was having problems doing his job.  What we mean in this context is that the editor didn't have enough to work with.

As noted in the plot description, there are several instances of shots repeated throughout the "Hollywood 1936"story that's supposed to show new action.  They are, in practice, using scenes from earlier in the story as stock footage for later in the story.  You almost get the same effect in "London 1912."  Of course, those were supposed to be flashbacks, but do you really need multiple flashbacks in a linear story less than thirty minutes long?

Also already noted in the plot description is the costume problem in "Quebec Province 1975."  We suspect what happened here was not so much a problem of continuity on the set as it was a problem of continuity during editing; that is, after they'd already shot the footage, someone thought the scenes would work better if the sequence was altered.  Result: Post-production continuity blues and a sense of poor attention to detail.  And given the obvious accidental replacement of a prop in one scene, "poor attention to detail" is what an audience will remember..
  

Contrivance

Two of the stories require incredible circumstances with unconvincing set-ups.  "London 1912" has the maid trapped in a pantry.  She has plenty of opportunities to call for help but she doesn't.  Why she doesn't is not clearly explained.  You might think that she doesn't because she is afraid of her actions being discovered.  However, her thinking is not explained.  If the audience has to fill in the gaps like that, it's because the filmmakers aren't doing their job.

The pendulum blade mix-up and the so-called iron maiden in "Hollywood 1936" has got to be two of the dumbest contrivances for an accidental death on a busy movie set.  First, we find it hard to believe that several people aren't going to notice they've been setting up a real pendulum blade instead of a fake pendulum blade.  It's a very different from, say, substituting a gun loaded with real bullets with one loaded with blanks.  We are also amused by how quickly the police department lost interest in the case and but don't think that was an intentional joke.

As for the iron maiden bit, we cannot accept that a movie set crew wouldn't put a mechanical safety on a prop like that to keep it from closing all the way.  If you stretch your imagination a lot, you might be able to invent a reason why they didn't.  And that, once again, is more evidence of the filmmakers not doing their job.

While we are on this subject, the framing story ("Montreal Present Day") is a contrivance all its own.  The author says he wants to publish a book that shows cats are secretly in charge of human affairs.  But no.  None of the three stories have that theme.  Rather, the theme of all three stories is that cats can be vindictive.  (I don't deny that.  No comment on what we cats really do when you humans aren't looking.)
  

Camp Out

Finally, we need to note that the camp humor in "Hollywood 1936" doesn't work.  Camp was in vogue in 1970's movies, but in careless hands it will backfire on the user.  Two things are needed to make it work, and they both depend on the audience.

The audience has to accept camp for what you are giving them.  See Batman & Robin (1997) for why filmmakers shouldn't take the expectations of their audience for granted; the filmmakers wanted to make a campy movie, but the audience did not want camp.  Result: Disaster.  Within "Hollywood 1936," the audience has no such expectations.  Result: You can get away with camp.  Checkpoint met.

However, the another audience factor is faith in the filmmakers competence.  Can the audience tell it's campy on purpose?  If they can, then it's good for a giggle.  But if you've already tried to be serious with them but shown them unconvincing monsters, unoriginality, unintentional anachronisms, and other examples of poor attention to detail, then faith in the filmmakers is out.  And so is the camp.

  

The Who Cares Stuff

Notes on the Cast and Crew

Denis Héroux (director) had better success as a producer.  Among his production credits are The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976), Les Liens du Sang (1977, a.k.a. Blood Relatives), La Guerre du Feu (1981, a.k.a. The Quest for Fire) and the Academy Award Best Picture nominee Atlantic City (1980).  Unfortunately, as we have seen in The Uncanny, he is not at his best when directing.  See also his abortive Born for Hell (1976, a.k.a. Naked Massacre).

On the other hand, Claude Héroux (producer) signed his name to some lesser examples of Canadian cinema, like City on Fire (1979), Dirty Tricks (1981), Visiting Hours (1982), and Going Berserk (1983).  (For a view on Canadian production practices during this time, see the B-Note on Starship Invasions.)  In the 1990's, he moved to television.

Michel Parry (writer) also wrote original story for Xtro (1983).

Peter Cushing (Wilbur Gray) needs no real introduction here.  Although he'd become a popular cult figure after playing Doctors Frankenstein and Van Helsing in a few Hammer pictures, he was mostly slumming it in the late seventies.  Of course, there was that clever B movie on steroids called Star Wars, but that was very much another story in the same year The Uncanny was finished.  Visit Cushing's tribute site for more info.

Donald Pleasence (Valentine De'ath) also needs no real introduction here.  His most respectable work was probably as the quiet forger in The Great Escape (1963), and leave us not forget that he really was a POW in World War II.  His Ernst Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967) was one of the more memorable villains in the movies, and very likely influenced the Dr. Evil character in the Austin Powers set of movies.  And speaking of Michael Meyers -- the other one -- Pleasence was offered the role of Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978) after Peter Cushing turned it down.  (Gee, what if Cushing played Dr. Loomis and, say, Pleasence played Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars?  We digress....)  Visit his tribute site for more info.

Ray Milland (Frank Richards) was a legendary actor who made several movies beginning in the late 1920's and was a screen idol in the 1930's and 1940's.  His finest work was in Lost Weekend (1945), for which he won an Oscar, but he's better remembered for starring in weird stories.  He played self-experimenting scientists in both It Happens Every Spring (1949) and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963).  In 1962, he directed and starred as a militant father keeping his family together at the end of the world in Panic in Year Zero. However, as he got on in years, he suffered the same fate as other older actors -- sinister parts, like the evil patriarch in Frogs and as half of The Thing with Two Heads.

Joan Greenwood (Miss Malkin) was a regular in Ealing comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Man in the White Suit (1951), where she's memorable with her finely tuned posture and amazingly squeaky voice.  Fans of weirder movies will more likely remember her as Lady Fairchild in Mysterious Island (1961).

Samantha Eggar (Edina) started out well in movies.  Her portrayal of a kidnapped art student in The Collector (1965) earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress.  However, her roles (and the movies) became progressively sillier: Doctor Dolittle (1967), The Brood (1979), Demonoid (1981), and the infamous Curtains (1983).  Did it get any better for her?  Well, she had a part as a doctor in The Astronaut's Wife (1999)....

John Vernon (Pomeroy) was the voice of Big Brother in 1984 (1956) and thereafter made his mark playing adversarial authority figures, like Captain Fletcher in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and Dean Wormer in Animal House (1978).  His typecasting and recognition became such that he could play it for parody, as he did in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka! (1988).

Susan Penhaligon (Janet) was in the movie version of No Sex Please, We're British (1973), played the obligatory female character in The Land That Time Forgot (1975), and was a nurse who discovers a comatose patient may be telekinetic in Patrick (1978).

Roland Culver (Wallace) started screen acting early 1930's.  His most distinctive work was probably in Dead of Night (1945).  In his later career, he usually played British aristocrats.

Simon Williams (Michael) is most likely remembered as Captain James Bellamy in Upstairs Downstairs (1971-1975).

Alexandra Stewart (Mrs. Blake) had better luck working under the direction of François Truffaut.  Look for her in La Nuit Américaine (1973, a.k.a. Day for Night).  As for Donald Pilon (Mr. Blake), look for him in The Pyx (1973).

Chloe Franks (Angela) was a child actor in various horror stories.  In Trog (1970), she was the little girl abducted by a missing link.  In Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971), she was a girl kidnapped by Shelly Winters.  Tales from the Crypt (1972) was a breakout role for her because nobody kidnaps her.  On the other hand, her character lets a homicidal Santa Claus into the house....

Wilfred Josephs (original music) started out as a dentist, but switched from the drill to instruments more commonly associated with music.  He did several classical compositions, but people are most likely to have heard his work in television programs like The Prisoner (1967) and I Claudius (1976).

Harry Waxman (cinematography) worked mostly for the Rank Organization, Hammer and other British production groups.  His lensings can bee seen in Swiss Family Robinson (1960), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), The Wicker Man (1973) and The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976).

Film editor Keith Palmer mostly worked in television and recently won the Emmy for "Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie" for: Hornblower: The Even Chance (1998).  This is encouraging for a guy with S*P*Y*S (1974) and The Lonely Lady (1983) haunting his past.  Also on the editing staff was Peter Weatherley, whose assignments varied from Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) to Alien (1979).

Wolf Kroeger (production design) worked with Robert Altman on a few films after The Uncanny.  He's worked on a few grander designs, like Ladyhawke (1985), The 13th Warrior (1999), and Enemy at the Gates (2001). 

Finally, Pinewood Studios was credited as one of the locations for shooting.  Given the cast and setting for the "London 1912" story, they probably shot that story at that studio with the other two stories shot in Canada.
    

Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares

Crossing the Fe-line

Cat People (1942) - Woman worries about getting romantically involved with a man because she thinks she'll turn into a cat.  (Strange.  Most human males I've overheard kinda like it when a female turns into an animal in bed.)  Followed by a sequel and a remake.

The Cat Creeps (1946) - This title causes confusion.  Does it say a cat is creeping?  Is it about some creeps who resemble cats.  Neither.  The title refers to a cat called Creeps.  (Doh!)  Humans start dying, and someone gets the idea that Creeps is the killer because she's been possessed by the ghost of a dead human.  Standard Universal murder mystery pretending to be horror.

Shadow of the Cat (1961) - After a cat's pet human is killed by other humans, the cat hunts down the killers and encourages a few "accidents."  Several distorted scenes show the action from the cat's point of view - or rather, how a human thinks a cat might see things.  Speaking of seeing things, this one is rarely seen anymore.  It maybe gone forever, and that's a darn shame, because then you'd see how much The Uncanny ripped this off.

Gay Purr-ee (1962) - French country cats have misadventures when they go to Paris and discover that the urbanites are ruder than them.  Animated with songs; humans like that sort of thing.

The Incredible Journey (1963) - A cat and his two sidekick dogs lose their humans, so they go looking for them.  Remade in 1993.  See also Koneko Monogatari (1986, a.k.a. The Adventures of Milo and Otis).

The Cassandra Cat (1963) - A cool cat with shades can read humans, and this freaks out the locals in a small village.

The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964) - Weird tale about a cat, her god, and reincarnation.  (Let's be honest here, human.  Do you really want a cat that thinks she's Shirley MacLaine?)

That Darn Cat! (1965) - Cat becomes an accidental hero when he leads some good humans to some evil human kidnappers.  This would be about the high point of how movies portray cats.  Remade to limited effect in 1997.

Eye of the Cat (1969) - Galeophobic (a human afraid of cats) tries to finesse a fortune from a lady with a lot of cats.  More of an early erotic suspense feature than a horror flick, but in the end the group of cats become gory vengeance.  C.f. the attack cats in the "London 1912" chapter here in The Uncanny.  See also The Aristocats (1970), wherein a lady leaves it all to her cats, but another human wants it all.

Shinbone Alley (1970) - Cockroach has a thing for a cat.  (Sorry, but that's just plain wrong.)  Musical by Mel Brooks.

Sieben Tote in den Augen der Katze [Seven Deaths in the Eyes of the Cat] (1970) - Grab-bag of weird European horror stuff, bound together by a cat watching various murders.

Il Gatto a Nove Code (1971, a.k.a. The Cat o' Nine Tails) - Oh, heh.  This isn't about a cat.  Ne'er mind.

The Corpse Grinders (1972) - While it's true that we cats "like people food," this is not what that means.  Secret ingredient in a popular cat food is fresh human.  Happy cats decide they'd like a little more of that, but supply is low.  Instant demand for seconds from humans follows.  (Meow meow meow meow....)

Noche De Los Mil Gatos (1972, a.k.a. Night of a Thousand Cats) - Rich human male likes to pick up females, but feeds them to his cats when he's done with them.

Fritz the Cat (1972) - Cartoon.  College cat has a little too much catnip and gets into a series of misadventures.  (This is cleaning up the story.  A lot.  Believe it.)  Cf. Macskafogó  below.

The Cat Creature (1973) - After some humans pick up a few Egyptian souvenirs, something starts killing them  Might be a cat.  Might be a god.  (Not that there's a of difference....)

The Cat from Outer Space (1978) - Flying saucer lands on Earth, but the military group investigating it can't find the pilot.  Elsewhere, a human is surprised to learn that a cat he's just met is telepathic.  Yup, the cat was the alien pilot.  And it's not long before the cat shacks up with one of those local mute female cats.  (Hey, isn't this just like Planet of the Apes?)

Il Gatto Nero (1981) - This on only one of the ten or fifteen movies called "The Black Cat."  Sometimes they're based on the story by Poe.  Sometimes they aren't.  This time, it's a Fulci flick about a psychic who uses cats as remote controlled weapons.  See also Fulci's Un Gatto nel Cervello (1990, a.k.a. A Cat in the Brain), but don't expect it to be as credible.

Cats (1981) - Musical based on T. S. Eliot's common nonsensical writings about cats, featuring some humans pretending to be cats.  (Are you humans amused when you see a cat do something that looks human?  Now you know what a laugh riot this musical is for us.)  Although it started to make us cats look good again, the longer this thing ran on Broadway, the more people hated it.  (Year cited refers to original London run.  It showed up in New York a year later.)  Backlash guilt by association followed.   Cut to video in 1998.

Cat's Eye (1985) - Free spirited cat hosts and stars in an anthology of stories.  In the third story, they retell that old "cats can suck the soul out of babies" myth.  (No.  Really.  It is a myth.  Honestly.) 

An American Tail (1986) - Blatant anti-cat propaganda.  Would have you believe that cats have been in charge of mouse affairs.  (Anyone who has read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy can tell you otherwise.)  See also Macskafogó [Cat City] (1986), which takes place on Planet X, where good mice are in a constant struggle with evil cats.

Uninvited (1988) - Sort of a remake of The Beast Within (1982).  Photogenic cat is really an external covering for a horrible monster.  You can read all about it at Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension and Badmovies.org.  

Strays (1991) - Humans are terrorized by a horde of happy hungry cats, which I suppose look and sound like scary angry cats to inexperienced humans.  (God, I hate this movie.  My pet humans think they're clever when they run the sound of this movie through the stereo system.  You see, there are parts in the soundtrack where several friendly cats ask for food.  Whenever I hear this in the living room, I run to see who's visiting.   And I, like a sap, fall for this gag every time.)  See review at Badmovies.org, and see also those blasted Jingle Cats albums. 

Babe (1995) - Oh, sure.  Accuse the cat of being some kind of devious manipulator.  Everyone else does.  See also Cats & Dogs (2001), which is not only one of the shoddiest pieces of anti-cat propaganda ever filmed, it also features a clip from Chow Hound (1951), one of the sickest, most sadistic cartoons by rabid anti-cat propagandist Chuck Jones.

Mouse Hunt (1997) - And what, exactly, is wrong with calling a cat Godzilla?

  

Acknowledgment

This article is dedicated to Otis the Cat, who led the way.  And just as he rightly said about not needing thumbs to use some pointing devices on a computer, you also don't need them for TV remotes....

  

The Bottom Line

Writer tells a publisher three weird tales involving cats.  Some good cult actors do their thing on some good sets.  Very not scary.  Mystical menacing cats look neither mystical nor menacing to those who know about cats.  Several plot devices and themes borrowed from many earlier movies.  Poor attention to detail evident in discontinuity in editing.  Contrived.  Ill advised camp.  Recommended for galeophobes looking for a good creep-out and galeophiles looking for a few happy cats.

Originally published on 1 April 2003

 






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