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This was another ABC television movie. Great modern take on the old
Egyptian mummy curse idea. When the movie opens, the appraiser is going
through the late millionaire's collection of Egyptian artefacts, some
of which might have been smuggled. We are left to assume that the
collector simply died from natural causes. We don't see the collector
in the movie at all. We're given a quick overview of why the appraiser
is there and that's it.
The murders don't start until a thief steals the heavy gold amulet from around the mummy's neck, if you remember. Said mummy was a priestess from the cult of Bast, the cat goddess, and the amulet was meant to imprison the spirit of the priestess.
Elements of the old detective story are blended with the supernatural in this tale. We are kept guessing until the very end as to the identity of the mysterious killer.
Great special effects in the scene when David Hedison finally has the showdown with the cat creature!
The first made for television collaboration between Psycho scribe and all round pulp horror titan Robert Bloch with classy b-horror veteran Curtis Harrington, The Cat Creature is a charming if inconsequential affair that neither reaches the levels of its influences nor surpasses its status as a made for television production, but is still perfectly good stuff for a dull afternoon left sparing. The outlandish plot sees an antique theft from a deceased collector result in the release of a murderous acolyte of the Egyptian cat goddess Bast, and cop Lieutenant Marco teaming up with Professor Roger Edmonds to figure out what's going on. Then there's occult shop owner Hester Black and her assistant Rena Carter getting involved in things as well. The vibe hearkens back to horror and detection stories of yesteryear, particularly the 1940's and Cat People, with a measured pace and restrained action as well as certain pleasing subtleties. Director Harrington pulls off a few effectively creepy stalking sequences and deploys the titular beast in fun if slightly repetitive fashion. Fortunately the story has a few twists and turns so things never get dull, although they fail to get all that heated either. The cast is fairly well handled and thread things through nicely, Stuart Whitman is suitably gruff and no nonsense as Lt. Marco, Meredith Baxter paints Rena in sympathetic shades of confusion, fear and yearning, while David Hedison takes a while to warm up and loose his awkwardness but is still likable as Prof. Edmonds, a classic academic good guy figuring things out with open-mindedness and learning. Best though is Oscar winner Gale Sondergaard as Hester, crooked and controlling, time soured and radiating low key negativity yet at the same time open and helpful. She steals every one of her scenes and brings an unaffected old fashioned class to things that is perhaps the films greatest asset. It's just a shame that the film doesn't really have enough in the way of atmosphere or shocks (being rather tame even by made for television horror standards), so for all that it has in the way of style and vacant likability it just isn't all that compelling. Certainly watchable, but definitely a film for fans of television horror of the era rather than more casual fans, who may quite reasonably be bored and unimpressed. As a fan of such horror then I give The Cat Creature 6/10 and partially recommend it to other such fans, but it is far from essential.
This is a very silly story, but I loved seeing a very young Meredith Baxter along with gothic/horror film regulars of the 30s and 40s such as John Carradine, Peter Lorre and Gale Sondergaard. Oh, and Charlie Chan's Number One Son Keye Luke.
An old attorney is in charge of cataloging a wealthy estate and is later found murdered near a mummy sarcophagus. On the case is Lt. Marco (Stuart Whitman), who quickly finds out that an amulet of Baast, the Egyptian cat goddess, was stolen. He enlists the help of Prof. Roger Edmonds (David Hedison) and they soon find themselves centering on an occult shop run by Hester Black (Gale Sondergaard) and her new assistant Rena Carter (Meredith Baxter). She admits a thief (Keye Luke) came by to try and sell the amulet, but she turned him away as she is out of the fencing game. Meanwhile, folks all over L.A. are being murdered with cat-like scratches found on their bodies. This ABC Movie of the Week was a return to TV for director Curtis Harrington (after his theatrical features WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, WHOEVER SLEW AUNITE ROO? and THE KILLING KIND). He definitely was looking to get into the Val Lewton mold a la THE CAT PEOPLE and it is pretty successful. The script by Robert Bloch moves quickly and there are some great performances in here. The best is Sondergaard as Hester Black, which might be one of the greatest names ever. Another interesting thing is Harrington, who was gay, fills the film with subtle gay moments (like Hester always asking her younger co-workers out for dinner and getting rejected).
A mysterious collector has died. It is up to the appraiser to go into
the old dark house with only a flashlight and a fountain pin. He finds
a mysterious mummy with a unique amulet of solid gold that has the head
of a cat with emerald green eyes on it.
While the appraiser goes for his tape recorder a sneak thief (Keye Luke) pilfers the amulet. In the morning the mummy is gone, the amulet is gone, and the appraiser looks like he was attacked by a common house cat.
The Police Lt. Marco (Stuart Whitman) recruits the assistance of Prof. Roger Edmonds (David Hedison) from the local collage to help make heads or tails of the situation.
The Cat Creature (1973)
** (out of 4)
An antique collector dies and soon afterwards a thief steals a gold amulet with the face of a cat on it. Soon several people who come in contact with it are murdered or commit suicide, which leads a detective and a college professor into the investigation. THE CAT CREAURE comes from director Curtis Harrington and writer Robert Bloch and it features an all-star cast but in the end you can't help but see this as being pretty minor. The biggest problem is the story, which has a few interesting ideas but nothing good is ever done with it. I thought the film got off to an extremely good start and the ending was good but everything in the middle was pretty much a bore. The entire investigation just seems so one note and there's never any energy behind it. Even with such a short running time the film really did drag badly in spots, which is a real shame because there are some good things here. One such thing is the alternate way of looking at the legend of a mummy and the curse that comes with it. The actual look of the mummy was good and I also thought the film did a good job with how the cats were used. I'm not going to spoil what happens at the end but it's actually a nice little twist. Another good thing is that the cast is great. We get Meredith Baxter doing a good job playing a woman who gets involved with the case and David Hedison is also good as the college professor. Gale Sondergaard (THE BLACK CAT '41), Keye Luke, Kent Smith, Stuart Whitman and Peter Lorre, Jr. are also in the cast and are fun to see. Then we have the great John Carradine in a quick minute role but he gets to act along side a prostitute midget so here's another weird one for the actor's filmmography. THE CAT CREATURE has a few bright ideas but sadly they never really materialize into anything watchable. Fans of the cast might want to check it out but others should stay clear.
I haven't seen this movie since I was a kid in 1973,and have looked for it for years. Recently found it on You Tube. I remember being impressed with the eeriness film and the scary visuals of the ending, even though you know who the priestess is. However, what lessens the films enjoyment for me seeing it again is the appearance of abuse of cats, with an unnecessary plot device of alley cats surrounding and eventually attacking the priestess. It appears the cats were starved to congregate around the victims and thrown onto the victims, a lot like what was done with rats in Willard. I am glad we live in more animal conscience times. 2.5 out of 4 stars
Several people, who have somehow come into contact with an amulet improperly elevated from the sarcophagus of an Egyptian mummy, are unaccountably but fatally assailed by a black cat. Not so much another CAT PEOPLE (1942) variation as a commendable addition to filmdom's mummy lore (courtesy of Robert Bloch); a cast of mostly old reliables helps add flavor to the familiar narrative. The film's leads are adequately filled with Meredith Baxter's deceptively innocent salesgirl and archaeologist David Hedison who, naturally, fall for each other during the course of the narrative; sprucing up the rest of the 'dramatis personae' are world-weary cop Stuart Whitman, sinister proprietor of "The Sorceress" pawn shop Gale Sondergaard, solicitor Kent Smith (the male protagonist of the aforementioned Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur classic), alcoholic thief Sen Yung and even hotel clerk(!) John Carradine (although already pushing 70 by this time). I have a handful of unwatched made-for-TV genre efforts from director Harrington and I might get to include them in this year's Halloween marathon.
This is one of those movies that you really enjoy when you watch it, but you have to say it is quite bad. Meredith Baxter is certainly a huge reason why this thing works; she takes her part so seriously. And good for her, because other actors might not shine so much in such a campy film. This is was one of those typical seventies TV movies found on ABC in the seventies. It was shot on a small budget, and it shows a little. It really is amazing that these old ABC TV movies were so effective, given their small budgets. It also stars Gale Sondergaard, Hester Black, John Carradine, and Keye Luke. But it's Meredith Baxter that is most memorable. If you like this one try "Bad Ronald."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a silly story to begin with, which is bad considering all the
big name stars involved.
It is horror for chicks, the ultimate chick flick horror film, because all the gorgeous young women are killed, and only old ladies live, and all the older guys are killed, and none of the young guys.
In other words, it's the fantasy for women, and the ultimate turn off film for heterosexual guys.
There really isn't any more this film is about. Hedison is a well meaning hero, who stumbles upon an evil beautiful woman.
Most of the roles aside from Whitman and Hedison are little more than cameos. There isn't anything developed. It puts new meaning to the word "lame".
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