Night Of The Cat (1973)

The highlight of this film is not the scene where a sweaty fat man falls down a flight of stairs. Incredible, but true.

“What do you think this is, some kind of strawberry festival?!”

I have no idea what a “strawberry festival” is, what it alludes to, or what its implications may hold. But, I know a thing or two about fat guy jokes. The Night of the Cat, on the other hand, is familiar with both.

The film grain. The blank living rooms. The motel lounge combo soundtrack. The over-enunciation. The Night of the Cat is the most ripened fruit in the Eden of regional rarities. Shot in South Carolina by one-time director Jim Cinque, the film knows exactly what it’s saying, yet at the same time, knows nothing of what it’s saying. Hilarious? Depressing? Bizarre? Naturally. You see, Cat admires the solemn desolation of Axe, but realizes that level of accomplishment is untouchable. So what’s left? A female vigilante in a black bodysuit, an ill-tempered gangster who sounds like Chico Marx, and some big, naked stripper boobies. I can respect that.

When Bev’s sister is run over by evil pimp Mr. Demmins, the stuff hits the fan. Revenge! The Cat is born! Maybe. After two karate lessons, a few sit-ups, and some ballerina posturing, Bev dons a black wig and mod suit. Then, she just kind of shows up at someone’s house. And gets punched in the face. By Doug. Yes! It’s Doug, the fat guy! There he is! Doug wears rayon golf shirts, sweats a lot, and kills people. He works for Mr. Demmins, who talks about strawberry festivals. Then, the inevitable: People repeatedly walk into unlit rooms. The Cat is tied to a bed while a group of gangsters slice off her suit with a knife for 15 minutes. Gangster Chico Marx throws a shit-fit over his interior decoration. The Cat engages in “fight scenes” that inspire a new sense of hope about this world. And, of course, Doug falls down the stairs. I watched that part twice.

Another Son of Sam is not a universally accepted surrealist classic, but I could watch it fifteen times in a row, then wake up the next day and watch it again. The Night of the Cat follows suit, but ups the ante with a little of Crypt of Dark Secrets’s comedic poise. Sure, downtime is a given. But Cat jams its 75 minutes with determination, even if it doesn’t know why. Random, meaningless inserts. Faulty-yet-cool compositions. Unexplained jumps in logic. Lots of sweet karate chops. You really can’t go wrong.

Now, go forth, eat strawberries, and be happy. Doug would want it that way.

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