Daily Archives: September 4, 2017

Cat’s Eye (1985)

*. I don’t mean it as a put-down when I say Stephen King is a small-screen kind of writer. I just mean that that’s what his work most comfortably adapts to. Dickens is the same way.
*. Maybe it’s his intimate domestic settings (turned upside-down, of course), and his focus on small, familiar experiences that swell in subjective time and space. Whatever the reason, when I watch King adaptations I rarely think of seeing these movies in a theatre. Kubrick’s The Shining is one exception, but I can’t think of any others off the top of my head.
*. Cat’s Eye is a horror anthology, consisting of a couple of stories (the first two here) that appeared in the collection Night Shift and a third that was written specially for the screen.
*. The cat as a connecting thread doesn’t work. It just runs from one story to another and only has a plot function in the last. (In the first story, as originally written, a bunny gets the shock treatment.) Apparently there was a prologue that explained the cat’s role a little more and how the troll was trying to steal the breath from another little girl (also played by Drew Barrymore), but this was cut, against director Lewis Teague’s wishes. With the Incredible Journey set-up gone, as things stand it’s not clear what the special relation between the little girl and the cat is. It’s said (by Barrymore) that he’s supposed to be trying to get “back” to save her, but when they do finally meet it seems as though it’s for the first time.
*. Well, there have been anthology-horror flicks with flimsier frames. I can’t say I was bothered by the cat here, even if he remains kind of enigmatic. Cats also make for poor actors (much worse than dogs) and the ones they had here (Teague says they used about a dozen) performs pretty well.

*. The first story, “Quitters, Inc.”, struck me as the best, both for having the most original story and for having James Woods playing the lead. His nervous demeanour fits well with the part of the overstressed exec suffering from nic fits.
*. My ranking “Quitters, Inc.” best is seconded by Teague in his commentary, where he calls it the most satisfying and the one that works best on its own. He also mentions how audiences remember it the most.
*. I don’t know this, but I’m guessing the little dig at the end comes from a Roald Dahl story, “Man from the South.” This story was also the inspiration for “The Man From Hollywood,” which was the Quentin Tarantino-directed segment in Four Rooms. These things get around.

*. I found the second story a bit of filler. It also gets off to a slow start (not in the original story) which just introduces us to the cat again and then lets us know that Cressner is a man who likes a good bet. That’s not enough information to bother with such a set-up.
*. After that we just have Robert Hays walking around on a ledge. I thought the cat might stroll out on the ledge to join him, and help with the pigeon, but that didn’t happen.
*. Speaking of the pigeon, I found it hard to credit that it would be so persistent in going after Hays’s ankle. In the story, however, King explains: “Pigeons don’t scare, not city pigeons, anyway.”

*. The final story was in fact the movie’s reason for being, as De Laurentiis wanted a vehicle for Drew Barrymore, which is kind of creepy in a way. As things turn out, however, she’s given very little to do. I think she was a great child actor but you don’t get to see that here.
*. You do get some pretty good special effects as the troll hops around the bedroom, and the final battle with the cat works well too, especially considering the difficulty of working with cats. But in the end it’s a very simple story about the kid who sees a monster in her bedroom but her parents won’t believe her, etc.
*. If you stay for the credits you actually get to listen to a “Cat’s Eye” theme song. They did that sort of thing in the ’80s.
*. As usual there are a lot of insider winks at the King oeuvre, beginning with cameos by Cujo himself (a film also directed by Teague) and the demon car Christine. But despite an obvious attempt at being lighthearted, there’s nothing particularly funny about any of it. It all just contributes to the sense of a movie that’s meant as light entertainment. Apparently it did OK box office but much better on home video, which was its natural home.