Eye Of The Cat - Eye Of The Cat(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2021]
Eye Of The Cat is a late 1960’s thriller that wonderfully seesaws between dark playful-ness, woozy moodiness, and moments of intense terror. It’s part low key crime caper and part when animal attacks horror- with a few twists of old hag horror, off-kilter romance, and dark comedy. From Powerhouse here is a very much needed Blu Ray reissue of the film, featuring a great new scan of the picture, a new commentary track and a few other extras.
Eye Of The Cat( aka Wylie, The Cannibal Cats) appeared in the year 1969- it was set in San Francisco at the self-centred butt-end of the flower power generation. Featuring some great shots from in and around the city, one or two jaded hippy parties, but it’s mostly set in grand-if-tried/ rundown at the edges city-based mansion. The film was directed by NYC born David Lowell Rich- in all he had 113 directorial credits to his name- though many of these were TV show episodes/ TV films. He had nine features to his name- these went from musical comedy Senior Prom (1958), soapy melodrama throwback Madame X(1966), slow-running & camp detective mystery A Lovely Way To Die (1968), and action-packed Blaxploitation spy film That Man Bolt (1973). Eye Of The Cat was written by Joseph Stefano, who of course wrote the script for Hitchcock's Psycho- and while there are certainly Hitch-like touches in the story. The often fairly creative use of camera/ visuals and, rewarding, at points, unbalancing tonal shifts make this very much its own beast and not just another Hitchcock rip-off.
The film kicks off with neat-at-points dizzying split screenshots, detailing a trip to the saloon by Danny(Eleanor Parker) a ageing, though still glamorous rich woman. We see she’s in a wheelchair, then walking, seemingly buoyant before having a jarring coughing/ troubling breathing attack. We find out fairly soon she is far from well, with advanced lung disease- having to lie in an oxygen bed tent, at night or when she has an attack, and of course, this plays heavily later in the plot. As the film starts properly, with a return to more formal shots- we meet Kassia Lancaster(Gayle Hunnicutt) a beauty therapist who often does treatments on Danny, and she’s on her way to meet Wylie(Michael Sarrazin) thick-haired and rough around the edges womanizer, who when we first meet him is in bed with a woman with his boots on. In time we find out Wylie is the favourite nephew of Danny, and Kassia has a plan to get hold of her money, with Wylie helping her do it. Though there are problems/ issues- and the biggest one is that his aunt’s house is full of cats, and the normally cocky Wylie is scared stiff of felines. Added into the story we have Wylie’s younger/ put upon brother Luke(Tim Henry)- who is looking after their aunt and her grand if declining house.
All the cast is good/ well placed here- but the star has to be Michael Sarrazin as the manipulative, yet troubled gigolo Wylie- as he switches between cocky and amusingly charming, tricky and devious, and scared/ frightful. Parker is effective as the ageing rich aunt- managing to blend pomposity, fragility, some rather dubious lusting’s, and manipulatively curtness. Hunnicutt and Henry do respectfully well as plotting beauty therapists, and the beatdown/ constantly belittled by his aunt younger brother.
The film features an excellent score by Lalo Schifrin- this shifts between taut and dense, creepy and unsetting, and woozy/ unbalancing- which really plays wonderfully with the onscreen action. The film's tone nicely moves well between darkly playful-ness and cheeky charm, shifting through to plotting cunning and smug bitchness, before darting into moments of bloody cat action and psychological unsettlement. Running at just under the one hour and forty-five-minute mark, Eye Of The Cat unfolds well with surprise, suspense and charm.
Moving onto this region B Blu Ray, and first, off we get a nice new high definition scan of the theatrical cut of the film- this is rich with both its 60’s campy colourings, the drab pinks and faded greens of the mansion, and blood reds and cat fir. We also get a TV cut of the film, this runs at the 102-minute mark, cutting/ replacing suggestions of flesh, gore, etc. Moving onto the extras and first out of the gate is a commentary from Kevin Lyons- editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television. And as always with Mr Lyons tracks- we get loads of facts, observations, sly touches of humour, and generally well put together, informative, and interesting track. He moves from discussing the film's credits, and the use of split-screen- and how this has been used to good/ bad effect in other films. Onto talking the cats in the film- who apparently were all Toms, he talks about the cats' trainer and his other film work. He discusses bios of actors- both in large and small parts, moving on to chat about the two cuts of the film. He talks about other horror/thriller films of the year 1969. He chats about the director's career, moving on to talk about the writers' career too- discussing his work with Hitchcock. And much, much more- so another very rewarding/ worthy track from Mr Lyons. Other extras wise we get Two Evil Eyes- this is a thirty-eight-minute comparison between the two cuts. We get Pussies Galore- which finds respected horror genre commentator/ author Kim Newman- discussing the film to hand, the director's other work including more horror focused TV films he made. He talks about similar films-be it cat-related or 60's counter-culture edged thrillers/ horror films. As always with anything with Newman- it’s well worth a play. Lastly, we get the original trailer and image gallery.
I rather enjoy good 60s/ 70’s thriller-horror blends, and Eye Of The Cat is certainly a distinctive, well shot, and well-acted example of this type of film. As always Powerhouse has done a great job with both the films print and the interesting/ rewarding extras.Roger Batty