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Jody, a juvenile delinquent, escapes from reform school by stabbing a matron and attempting to burn down the building and then takes refuge in a house owned by an ambitious politician David Patton. Despite the hellcat's ample charms, the would-be officeholder wants nothing to do with her and tries to drive her away. She responds by shortly returning to his house accompanied by a gang of delinquent pals and taking him hostage. A sudden act of violence causes more trouble, leading Jody and her gang to hijack David and force him to drive a getaway car to Mexico. Written by
Way better than the hecklers say, plain and simple.
Director Douglas Heyes oversaw 9 of the better Twilight Zone episodes, including the classic Eye of the Beholder, and one of the 2 or 3 best Boris Karloff Presents Thriller episodes (The Purple Room). Bringing this context to Kitten With A Whip, you realize you are in the hands of a master storyteller, and also, exactly what you are in for: a not-quite-fantasy but nonetheless feverishly nightmarish Twilight Zone episode.
As with the best TZ episodes, you are asked what you would do if something on the scale between patently impossible to utterly insane happened to you. The setup is simple. A mentally unbalanced teenager sneaks into your house while you are away, threatens you with accusations of rape and the destruction of your political ambition (which appear about to reach fruition) to gain control once you return home, and effectively takes over your life. It is like a typical TZ scenario, a Twilight Zone-style turning a character's 'normal' life on its head, and letting the angst and desperate quest for an out flow from there.
I see no big theme here, other than the noir theme of crazy fate putting its finger on you. That seems to be the entire point here. Separated from Serling's big theme plots that showed man against himself in the form of prejudice and fear, Heyes may seem a bit lost. But his directorial hand is sure as ever, and the story is as engrossingly told as that of any TZ episode. I suspect Heyes enjoyed taking TV's Bachelor Father and subverting the precepts of his bourgeois existence in the rudest, most thoroughly shaming way possible. Maybe, after all is said and done, it is through subversion that Heyes gets his chance to challenge the bourgeois status quo, as he did routinely while working with Serling. For many- and yes, possibly even the director- Kitten works as a jet black comedy.
This film doesn't have a great reputation, though among its undeniable assets it boasts a fine performance from a man often unfairly given the Bob Cummings light comic actor brush-off by Hollywood. John Forsythe would appear In Cold Blood a couple of years later, another film light years away from the scrubbed sitcom milieu.
8 stars. Give it a spin.
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