Jim Cinque – The night of the cat (1973)
When her sister is murdered by a group of goons working for a local mobster, Beth goes on the fritz, donning a wig, taking martial arts lessons, and using a cane to help take on opponents. Soon, she meets her sibling’s murderers face to face, and they’re in for it. Kathy Allen and George Oakley star in this North Carolina revenge opus. No-budget no-frills regional filmmaking at its rawest awaits you in this Charlotte, North Carolina celluloid catastrophe about a woman who becomes an avenging “catwoman” and takes on the mob. With bare titties, godawful acting, hilariously lame “action,” and joyously unconvincing fight scenes, it’s not only a breath-taking wonder from beginning to end, but so utterly simplistic that you’ll need to take notes to follow it. Morganna, the uber-busty stripper for became famous in the 80s as baseball’s “The Kissing Bandit,” appears in a strip club scene.
The apex of this film is not the scene in which a sweaty, 300 pound 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. That is the level of omniscience we are dealing with
The film grain. The blank living rooms. The motel lounge combo soundtrack. The over-enunciation. The Night Of The Cat is, more than anything, the most ripened of peaches 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? Moody? Suggestive? Bizarre? Naturally. You see, Cat admires the solemn desolation of Axe, but realizes that those resources are untouchable. So what’s left? A female vigilante in a black bodysuit, an ill-tempered Chico Marx/Mel Brooks gangster, and some big, naked stripper boobies. I can respect that.
Hear Bev roar. When Bev’s police-mole 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 way too much, and kills people. He works for Mr. Demmins, who popularizes the stuff 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 fifteen minutes. Chico/Mel throws a shit-fit over his interior decoration (with good reason). The Cat engages in “fight scenes” which 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 gall and determination, even if it doesn’t know why. That’s what I like to see. Random, meaningless inserts. Faulty-yet-cool compositions. Unexplained jumps in logic. Lots of sweet karate chops. Plus, everything else. You really can’t go wrong.
The Night Of The Cat is a clear ‘n’ scratchy 1970s wonder. Think Don’t Look In The Basement. Colors are faded. Texture is thick. Sound is hissed. Plus, we get an unexpected boost; red, orange, and blue color swatches pulse with psychedelic glee at random during the first half of the film. When they eventually faded, my heart grew heavy.
Behold the power of a woman scorned. The Night Of The Cat is a regional champeen; down ‘n’ dirty, surrealistic, and a big mess of odd people and ridiculous situations. It’ll get you through the night. Now, go forth, eat strawberries, and be happy. Doug would want it that way.
There’s nothing quite like the rot-gut jolt one gets from the no-frills Americana of a regional rarity. And there’s nothing quite like a the raw insanity awaiting you in The Night of the Cat, a shot-in-Charlotte, North Carolina, celluloid catastrophe about a woman who becomes an avenging “catwoman” and takes on the mob. With bare titties, godawful acting, hilariously lame “action,” and joyously unconvincing fight scenes, it’s not only a breath-taking wonder from beginning to end, but so utterly simplistic that you’ll need to take notes to follow it.
“Believe it or not, when he sees a cat, he goes right up the wall,” says reporter Tom Whitfield about crime boss Mr. Demmons. “He breaks out in a cold sweat at the very appearance of a cat! I have even seen him pas out once when a cat simply ran across his path!” True. Demmons – who looks more like the president of a bowling league than a gangster – is at his backyard pool when he freaks out and screams at the sight of a kitten – yes, a kitten – until a big fat gender-blurred guy named Doug quickly…uh…disposes of the kitty.
When he’s not screaming at puddy tats, Demmons owns a local topless bar – where MORGANNA, “The Wild One,” performs in a bit of bare-breasted go-go footage that was obviously shot for another film. He also runs a prostitution racket in which innocent girls are kidnapped, taken to a secret clinic, and given drugs. “Hopelessly addicted,” the girls pay for the drugs by becoming ho’s. All of which reporter Tom explains to timid blonde Beth, whose sister was murdered by Demmons’ goons. Unfortunately, before Tom can be of more help to her, he’s drowned in his bathtub by the above-mentioned fat guy
So Beth does what any woman would do under the same circumstances: she takes a lesson in kung fu, puts on a long black wig, and becomes a knife-wielding crime fighter. Apparently. There’s really no emphasis put on her transformation. She just shows up in Emma-Peel-like black outfit with Demmon’s thugs letting us know she’s the “cat” of the title: “Kitty kat, you don’t look vicious to me.” Even more amazing, with sublime I-Love-Lucy-logic, no one – not even the detective investigating the case – recognizes her with the wig on! Wow. And, single-handedly, Beth wipes the bad guys off the face of the earth even though she seems to lack the most perfunctory of fighting skills, Best moment: Beth and detective Bob are in an apartment when they hear someone trying to break in. As they dive for cover, they turn off the lights after the director helpfully reminds them by shouting “Lights!”
God bless America. Theatrically released by Dominant Pictures in 1973, The Night of the Cat probably never played outside the South – or, more likely, never outside the Carolinas. It is, of course, the kind of ultra-obscurity Something Weird is only too happy to throw at a world that doesn’t want it. From a 35mm print with color that’s starting to turn psychedelic