THE CAT CREATURE
As director, Douglas Cramer employed Curtis Harrington who had a number of genre credits during the previous decade, notably with his psycho-thrillers in the Batty Old Dames genre such as Whats the Matter With Helen? (1971) and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971). (See below for Curtis Harringtons other films). On script was horror writer Robert Bloch, who had gained a good deal of fame for having authored the original book that became the basis of Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho (1960) and had successfully spun this out into a modest screenwriting career (see below for Robert Blochs other credits).
The Cat Creature is often called an old-fashioned homage to classic Hollywood horror by genre commentators. Maybe so. The film certainly brings out of retirement a classic cast that includes veteran horror actor John Carradine as the desk clerk of a fleapit hotel; Keye Luke as the thief; and Gale Sondergaard, an actress who was popular in the 1930s and 40s, including playing The Spider Woman (1944), but fell out of favour due to refusing to testify in the McCarthy Witch Hunts. There is even Peter Lorres son as a second-hand dealer. As the female lead is Meredith Baxter, who had just come from Ben (1973) and was a few years away from success in Family Ties (1982-9).
Commentators are also fond of likening The Cat Creature to the classic Cat People (1942) by. (People may have been caught by the cameo from Cat Peoples hero Kent Smith as the estate appraiser at the start of the film). However, aside from the two films featuring people who turn into cats, this is a misnomer. There are crucial differences in tone between the two that set them poles apart Cat People hides everything behind ambiguity and suggests that the existence of any cat people is in peoples imagination, whereas The Cat Creature is a plodding, literalistic film that lacks anything in the way of subtlety and only ever provides any cat person in the bizarrely left field twist ending.
Curtis Harrington once had his star touted because of his films in the Batty Old Dames genre but even a couple of years later he was caught in the tv wasteland. By the point of The Cat Creature, you have the feeling that neither he (nor Robert Bloch) cared much about the assignment. This film is stuck with the same problems that the cat horror anthology The Uncanny (1977) had it is unable to make images of the shadow of a cat or closeups of a black cat ominously staring at people into something sinister. Harringtons direction is ploddingly dull and fails to find anything in the way of atmosphere. Everything that happens is thuddingly obvious and is killed by a loud and overemphatic canned score. The script is a pedestrian detective story plot that schematically turns by the numbers and arrives at a desultory ending that barely lifts the show. The cat vengeance and Egyptian curse plot devices feel like they belong to hackneyed B movies before the film even starts and Robert Bloch does disappointingly little to enliven the tiredness of the elements.
Curtis Harringtons other genre films of note are: the low-budget mermaid tale Night Tide (1962); the English-language inserts for Roger Cormans Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965), which was re-edited from a Russian sf film; the alien vampire film Queen of Blood (1966), which also reuses Russian sf film footage; the psycho-thriller Games (1967); the psycho-thriller How Awful About Allan (tv movie, 1970); the Batty Old Dames psycho-thriller Whats the Matter with Helen? (1971); the Batty Old Dames psycho-thriller Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971); the Batty Old Dames psycho-thriller The Killing Kind (1973); the voodoo/zombie film The Dead Dont Die (tv movie, 1974); Killer Bees (tv movie, 1974); Ruby (1977) about a haunted drive-in; and Devil Dog: Hound of Hell (tv movie, 1978) about a Satanic dog.
Robert Blochs other films include: the novel that became the basis of Psycho (1960) and the screenplays for The Cabinet of Caligari (1962), Strait-Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1965), The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1967), Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1970), Asylum (1972), the tv movie The Dead Dont Die (1974), Three Dangerous Ladies (1977) and The Amazing Captain Nemo (1977).
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