Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Anthologicious: Stephen King's Cat's Eye

  With so many Stephen King films out there, it's easy to forget a couple of them.  I mean, how many of us think about Graveyard Shift, The Night Flier or The Langoliers?  That's the case with today's subject: Cat's Eye.  The film is a pretense to include a bunch of stories from Night Shift, a 1978 short story collection.  I'm linking it here because it contains a number of stories that became films, including Trucks (aka Maximum Overdrive), Sometimes They Come Back and The Mangler.  Made in 1985, the film represents the height of King's popularity in the entertainment industry.  He was so big that his leftovers- 'Quitters Inc,' 'The Ledge' and 'The General'- could get their own movie.  The film also features Drew Barrymore in a role that was given to her solely due to her performance in Firestarter- another King film.  It's an odd horror anthology, since the framing device is barely-explained or a part of the film.  Apparently, there was a longer explanation for the cat's motivation, but it was cut by the studio.  They deemed it silly, which is a bit ironic when you consider the final story.  One more side note for you: the director is Lewis Teague.  If the name doesn't ring a bell, you'll know his early work- Alligator, Cujo and The Jewel of the Nile.  Will the film be up to those films or will it be like Teague's later works- Collision Course, Navy SEALs and The Dukes of Hazzard- Reunion?  Get your Police record for my review of...
The film's framing device begins with a cat being chased by...Cujo?  Considering it's the same writer (King) and director (Teague), it must be.  If so, it's a weird distraction.  The animals cross the road and pass...Christine.  That's just silly now.  It ends up in NYC and gets captured by a bearded man who works for Quitters Inc (also the story's title).  In walks a businessman (James Woods) who has to quit smoking.  Out walks a frazzled and upset woman who is joined by her sorry husband.  Hello, foreshadowing!  The head of the company beats up Woods until he stops to demonstrate a room with a floor triggered to spark.  The poor cat is used as a 'guineau pig' for this action.  At home, Woods is a bit frazzled himself, since we learn that the company would torture his wife and/or daughter in the same room.  He is obsessed with the idea of a man being in his house, a point that proves to be true.  He confronts the company, who is nonchalant about it.  At a party, Woods has a bad reaction to everyone smoking around him.  It's a bad party when you imagine giant, dancing cigarette boxes!  At a traffic stop, Woods breaks down and lights a smoke, but gets spotted.  The wife is captured and put in the room.  After that ends, we see the couple reconcile and hug.  That night, they hold a party and the mood dies a bit when Woods learns that Quitters Inc.'s threat about cutting off the wife's finger tip is true- since it happened to his friend's wife.
During the fracas, the cat escaped and ends up in Atlantic City.  For 'The Ledge,' we meet a crazy, rich guy who has his wife followed, since she's having an affair.  The cat is nearly run over while trying to cross the road, something that the man and his friend bet on.  They capture the wife's lover (Robert Hays) and force him to make a hard choice.  He can scale down the side of the building and get paid off or be arrested for a trumped-up drug charge.  Given that he has no choice in the matter, he starts climbing along the building's exterior.  It's a rough trip, especially when the old man pops out and nearly hits him.  Unfortunately, some dated rear-projection effects arrive (this was made in 1985, after all) to make this a bit less dramatic.  Eventually, he gets back inside and wins the bet.  He gets a bag of money and...the wife's head.  Damn you, Kevin Spacey!  Hays fights back and forces the old man to do the same wager.  He falls to his death, nearly hitting the cat on the ground.  By the way, the cat escaped again during this story's fracas.  Repetition much?
The third and final tale 'The General'  begins with the cat arriving into a new town.  He meets up with a little girl (Barrymore) who instantly loves the cat.  Unfortunately, the mother does not like cats & forces the animal to live outside.  That morning, we learn that the cat entered the kid's room, angering the mom.  We get the message from Tales from The Darkside: The Movie about cats stealing kid's breath.  Is it true?  The next night, a creature comes into the kid's room via a hole in the wall.  The tiny goblin sneaks around for a bit before climbing onto her.  Before it can act, the cat aka General shows up & attacks the creature.  It stabs the cat and runs, but not before knocking over the bird's cage and killing it.  Since the creature covers its tracks, the mother blames the cat for the death and the mess.  The cat is left outside again as the creature shows up one more time.  It steals more of the kid's breath before the cat escapes from a kennel to the most ridiculously-over-the-top music ever.  Seriously, you would think that the thing was Aslan!  It climbs in through the chimney for one more showdown.  It traps the thing, chases it onto a Police record and turns on the player.  Smart cat!  Eventually, it spins so fast that the creature is thrown into a fan and killed.  The parents arrive and find the body, allowing the cat to stay.  They tease a dark ending with the cat...but it's all happy.  The End.
This movie is...actually pretty good.  The stories are interesting on their own, which is sometimes rare for this sub-genre.  They have to, however, since the framing device is so damn inconsequential.  The cat sees a vision of Barrymore...for some reason that the movie never explains and that says why it heads towards the house for the third story.  It's involvement is so minimal that it's almost pointless.  They could have just had it be 'A witch telling the stories' or 'Barrymore being read stories by her mother.'  What's the point of the cat?  Is it just to justify the final tale?  Speaking of which, the tone is strange and inconsistent.  'Quitters Inc' is a dark, social commentary tale, while 'The Ledge' is a straight-forward revenge tale.  'The General' is just weird and goofy.  Fun fact: 'Sometimes They Come Back' was planned for this film, but given it's own film instead.  That explains a lot, actually.  They clearly had no good reason for this framing device and a more consistent tone planned before Dino De Laurentis made up his mind.  I should also mention that Barrymore plays Woods' daughter in a throw-away role.  While the film is a bit too random to recommend whole-heartedly, it does provide us with this great image.  Enjoy your serious film career after this, Drew...
Next up, Sounds Like Week changes to a new subject- the Road.  Will it be game or some killer shit?  Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment