Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The Cat Creature (1973)
Here's an interesting TV-movie, originally aired december 11 on ABC, 1973. The Cat Creature was made mostly because producer Douglas S. Cramer wanted to make an old-fashioned, occult-themed thriller in the same vein as The Cat People and similar stuff from the forties and seventies. He hired Robert Bloch as a writer and Curtis Harrington as director and a very competent cast with Meredith Baxter, Stuart Whitman and David Hedison in the bigger parts and with a lot of great supporting actors - but more on them later.
After a real estate appraiser is found clawed to death in the villa of a rich collector, super-cop Stuart Whitman is on the case. He contacts Egyptologist David Hedison, because the dead dude was specializing in Egyptian artefacts and soon they're noticing how people is starting to die around them, and everything seems connected to a golden amulet stolen from the estate. ...and the presence of a black, nasty, angry cat near every victim doesn't bode well...
The Cat Creature is a by-the-numbers TV-movie, but it's also extremely cosy, perfect for a lazy morning. The wonderful cast is inspired - especially Gale Sondergaard, the talented and colourful actress who became a victim for the McCarthy-fascism, who also got a little comeback here and worked up to her death in the middle of the eighties. She had a successful Hollywood-career, but after getting fucked by the American paranoia she and her director-husband Herbert J. Biberman moved to more liberal
and started to worth in theatre instead of the
shallow film industry. John Carradine shows up in a cameo and Peter Lorre Jr.
in an even smaller part. And he's an oddity in the cast. New
Lorre Jr. wasn't really Peter Lorre's son, but he looked a bit like him and when he wanted to break into acting he changed his name to Peter Lorie Jr, which both Lorre and his people objected to. But lucky for Eugene Weingand (his real name), Peter Lorre died months after and he quickly changed his name to Lorre Jr. and claimed he was the son - and therefore got a few parts here and there. What a guy!
Curtis Harrington is even more interesting. Considered one of the founders of Queer Cinema (he worked with Kenneth Anger, among others) and very interested in the occult, he became some kind of specialist on cheap, colourful genre movies, some of them made for TV. He also made a trio of name-themed movies, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, What's the Matter with Helen? and How Awful About Allan. He did some jobs for Roger Corman also but later turned mostly to TV. I prefer to remember him for the insanely cheesy but awesome Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell!
Anyway. It's not a perfect movie by any means, mostly because it had some troubles during production. Shortly before shooting was going to begin, Harrington told Bloch the script is twelve pages too long. Bloch carefully shorted it to fit the TV-format, but after shooting was done Harrington discovered that the movie needed twelve pages more! Now Bloch had to write new scenes, who would fit in with the now already filmed shorter script, and that resulted in a less coherent story and a bit more episodic feeling.