It’s hard to remember a time when Stephen King’s name wasn’t constantly attached to movies. Even back in the 1970s he had adaptations of Carrie and The Shining making decent money but it was the early ‘80s when he began writing for the screen himself. His first was for the George A. Romero film Creepshow, but he followed that up with another lesser-known anthology: Cat’s Eye, which has now been given a brand-new 4K restoration.
Cat’s Eye presents three stories loosely connected by the journey of a cat named General who is on a mission to save a little girl (Drew Barrymore, who had previously led another King film, 1984’s Firestarter) from an unknown danger. Two of the stories are based on short stories by King while the final is an original concept, and all are typical of King’s fascination with the dark side of humanity. They’re also darkly comic, although it helps if you already have a morbid sense of humour.
The first story is ‘Quitters, Inc’, which stars James Woods (Salvador) as a man desperate to quit smoking who is recommended to go to the titular company by a friend. The company and its CEO (Alan King, The Anderson Tapes) has some interesting methods of helping him quit, including electrocuting his wife if they catch him lighting up.
The second is ‘The Ledge’, where a compulsive gambler (Kenneth MacMillan, Dune) makes a wager to a tennis player (Robert Hays, Airplane!) who has been having an affair with his wife. He’ll spare her life and let them get away, but only if he can make it round the tiny ledge that runs around the perimeter of a vast skyscraper.
The final story is ‘The General’, where the intrepid cat makes it to Barrymore’s home, only to find it needs to battle an evil troll that wants to steal her breath. The only problem is that her parents think the cat is a pest responsible for killing the family canary, and it’s up to the cat to save the day and clear his name.
Directed by Lewis Teague, who had previously made another King adaptation in the guise of Cujo, as well as the fantastic Alligator, Cat’s Eye is a gruesomely entertaining trio of stories. It’s cast fairly impeccably, with James Woods being the least sleazy he’s probably ever been to make you sympathise over his cigarette problem, and the great Kenneth MacMillan torturing poor Robert Hays to within an inch of his life as he clambers around the building. And Drew Barrymore as sweet as she can be, not too far off after her role in E.T..
While it’s not a violent film, there are some things to be aware of, especially a number of scenes where animals appear to be harmed or in potential pain. This can be distressing, and indeed the disc begins with a disclaimer warning the film features some “outdated attitudes”. This can also refer to a scene set at a home for disabled children, which certainly feels like a dreadful stereotype, but also may refer to the multiple scenes of people smoking, or perhaps Alan King in a silver jumpsuit singing ‘Every Breath You Take’.
The final segment has always been my favourite, maybe because the troll scared the hell out of me when I saw it as a kid. It’s a great design by the legendary Carlo Rambaldi (Alien, E.T.) and it’s pulled off well, with a guy in a suit against some innovative production design. It’s also still really freaking creepy, with great sound design.
Studiocanal has given Cat’s Eye a fresh 4K scan from the 35mm negative and they’ve done a magnificent job. This is easily the best the film has ever looked and it does a fantastic job of showing off the wonderful cinematography of the great Jack Cardiff (A Matter of Life and Death). The 5.1 mix is also excellent, giving Alan Silvestri’s powerful synth score a real showcase.
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The disc has a good set of supplemental features, with most of them having previously been released, including an audio commentary with director Teague and interviews with Robert Hays and animal trainer Teresa Ann Miller, and a theatrical trailer that looks like it’s been dragged through hell. However, there is an interesting new interview with Teague, who gives some interesting anecdotes, including a deleted prologue with actress Patti LuPone going after the cat with an automatic weapon and the fact that King himself had recommended Teague for Cujo after seeing Alligator.
Cat’s Eye is a fun and imaginative anthology with a good dose of black humour. Your mileage may vary in regards to the animal treatment and depictions of smoking, but Studiocanal has given it a fantastic new restoration. And that bloody troll is still creepy as anything.