DVD Review

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Those darn cats

By ANDREW HERSHBERGER     December 10, 2001

© 2001 Image Entertainment
Beware of the black cat whether it be fat or not! For those who doubt the wisdom of those words they only need look at this latest Something Weird Video offering to be set straight. Featuring two lost "Cat-ssics" dredged out of cinema's litter box, this may be one of the most purr-fector at least rub on the leg worthyways to kill 162 minutes, plus extras. So rush out to your local video store and feast yourself on the juicy mouse that is this killer kitty double feature.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe's done-to-death classic THE BLACK CAT, this update features schizophrenic writer Lou and his lovely wife. When we first meet Lou he is the picture of decency. He's got a good wife, a nice house and a collection of animals he loves; however, things don't stay the same forever and forever changes when his wife gives him a present. This present is a lovable black cat by the name of Pluto and Lou is smitten, so much so that he starts to ignore his neurotic simpleton wife for the pet (no, he's not having an affair with the cat).

As the days go by Lou becomes more and more unstable, eventually taking to going out late at night to bars and coming home drunk. After a rough eveningthat includes his getting into a bar brawlLou comes home and starts smacking the missus around. She leaves and he's left alone with Pluto. He seeks comfort from his feline friend, but the cat is frightened and scratches Lou. Lou responds by cutting Pluto's eye out"if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." Yeah, that's a new line. Now Lou's really getting out of hand and after another night of drinking decides to kill Pluto, which he does. Unfortunately, in the process he burns his house down. Finding out too late that his estate didn't have insurance, and revealing in the process an intense hatred of his father, Lou goes nutzoid and has to be committed. After being released from the hospital Lou seems fine, until he picks up another black cat with a bad eye and the evil starts to creep back into his soul...

As a harsh lesson in double-checking masonry work, THE BLACK CAT is a sad tale of bad stress management. If only Lou would realize that he's focusing too much energy on an outside scapegoat rather than dealing with the real problemhimselfhe might not... well, you just see the film.

A gripping little number, this movie is rather disturbing, particularly if you're a cat lover. While much of the man beating up on pussy footage is left to the imagination, there are still a few visuals that will have CAT FANCY subscribers crying out for blood and covering their eyes. In the lead role of Lou, Robert Frost gives a good performance aided by the fact that he just looks creepy. The rest of the cast is fine for a B film, with Pluto the cat delivering a first rate performance as the title character.

Overall, Harold Hoffman's film loses steam after the first hour, but since it's only 73 minutes that's no big deal. There are some scenes of gore, but they are few and far betweenhowever, one scene packs a hell of a punchand Hoffman builds suspense mostly through suggestion. There are some clever musical numbers featuring Scotty McKay and some great "how much Lou hates his dad" revelation scenes, even if we never really figure out why.

The DVD print of THE BLACK CAT is widescreen (1.85:1) and, with the exception of the reinstated prologue footage, is rather clean. The sound is a bit weak though, but the simple act of turning up the volume should set things rightunless you're an audiophile and then you'll just have to take out your frustrations on little Puss 'n Boots over there.

THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT is one of those re-worked pickupsmeaning the original film was altered significantly by a new distributorthat everybody loves, cause they often turn an average film into a surreal mess. The original version of THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT was the tale of two police detectives, Dave Walsh and Ed White, who are looking for a person murdering beatniksI know, somebody who dared live out the American dream. As the picture progresses the older, funnier Ed gets pushed to the background as the story steers toward Dave pursuing a relationship with anthropologist Janet. Eventually the murderer is found and it's some guy you've never seen beforewhy they took the trouble to hide his identity is beyond mewho gets captured by Dave and Ed at Frontier Land (no, not the Disney one). This original version, which you can piece together by flipping back and forth from the movie and the deleted scenes section of the disc, had some charming comic moments, likeable characters and a few shots of nudity, but as it unfolds one realizes there is no tension and the movie is more concerned with character than story.

The new version of THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT is "crazy, man, crazy." There's now like all these new police guys, man. And there's this new character, beatnik Harold, man, who wasn't, like, in the movie before, you dig? Now there's this new footage that's so out of sight that it sends this film straight out of Squaresville.

The new film still figures in Dave and Ed, but now includes tons of footage that doesn't match the footage of the other film. This time the killer is somebody we know, somebody who didn't return for the new inserts and instead is shown only from the backfor about 8 minutes! The police are now using a black cat to help solve the murder, a black cat with ESP that is. Seems that at four of the five murders there were cat prints. Why? Simple: the cat has a sixth sense that draws him to the scene. Naturally these prints all belong to the same cat and this cat just happens to belong to the Chief Detective. As things turn out Dave diesat least I think he dies, it's hard to tell with the way they mixed the footageand the murders are more gruesome, plus the film ends with a diagnosis that will piss off members of the Rainbow Coalition everywhere. That said, the new version is so incompetently handled that it holds viewers spellboundlike a deer caught in headlights.

Harold Lea directed the original, but the update can only be the work of Michael A. Ripps, whose method of inserting new footage into old product proved more lucrative with a little film called POOR WHITE TRASH.

The print of THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT is presented full frame (1.33:1) and is pretty good. The sound, like THE BLACK CAT, leaves a bit to be desired, requiring turning the TV up louder than usual.

While neither of these films is particularly risqué, it seems Something Weird's Mr. Mike Vraney couldn't pass up the pussycat theme to unleash the sleaze. The following trailers are rather, um, mature: THE CATS, CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHO CAT, THE GIRL FROM PUSSYCAT, THE HOUSE OF CATS, PUSSYCATS PARADISE and the Easter egg trailergo to trailers menu, select a trailer, push your arrow button left and the grandmother on the upper right corer will sport a cat mask, push enterfor THE PINK PUSSY, which isn't as raunchy as it sounds. Wait till the folks are out of the house to watch theseor for a little Robert Crumbesque kink, don't.

Also included, and more tame, are the trailers for THE BLACK CAT, THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT, THE TOMCAT a British film about a swinging male, ala ALFIE and one for the 15-cent production of PUSS 'N BOOTS, which features a song with the chorus "Ping Pang Pong," demanding that this movie must be seen, and promptly hated.

Rounding out the perks are a short, "The Cat Girl," featuring Margie La Mont in a rather chaste strip number, and the always enjoyable gallery of "Horror Drive-In Exploitation Art" backed with the soothing sounds of the "Horrorama Radio-Spot Rarities."


Movie Grades: B / B-     Disc Grade: B+

Reviewed Format: DVD

Rated: Not Rated

Stars: THE BLACK CAT - Robert Frost, Robyn Baker, Sadie French, Anne MacAdams, Scotty McKay, Pluto; THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT - Frank James, Janet Damon, Patricia McNair, Hugh Romney, Hector Elizondo

Writers: THE BLACK CAT - Harold Hoffman; THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT - Harold Lea, additional material by M.A. Ripps

Directors: THE BLACK CAT - Harold Hoffman; THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT - Harold Lea

Distributor: Image Entertainment / Something Weird Video

Original Years of Release: THE BLACK CAT - 1965; THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT - 1963

Suggested Retail Price: $24.99

Extras: widescreen (THE BLACK CAT); deleted prologue for THE BLACK CAT; deleted scenes from the original version of THE FAT BLACK PUSSY-CAT; trailers; "Kitty Kat" trailers for THE CATS, CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHO CAT, THE GIRL FROM PUSSYCAT, THE HOUSE OF CATS, PUSS 'N BOOTS, PUSSYCATS PARADISE, THE TOMCAT and THE PINK PUSSY; short "The Cat Girl!"; "Horror Drive-In Exploitation Art"; "Horrorama Radio-Spot Rarities"


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