August 3, 2014

Movie Review: The Night of a Thousand Cats

The Night of a Thousand Cats is a weird movie, there really is no questioning that. The film is virtually plotless and moves along like an art house film. It can be seen as an existential rumination on the nature of sanity, or the dangerous art of seduction, or how eclectic collections can be the result of mental disorder. Or you can just watch it as a oddball movie about a psycho with a helicopter, a castle, and a lot of cats. It is not a move with a lot of middling feelings on, you will have a reaction to it. In most cases the reaction is distaste, or perhaps boredom. I think I like it, but it is certainly a trying film.

I have now seen the movie twice, once on uncut DVD and once screened from a 35mm print of the US cut, which clocks in at about a half hour shorter (93 minutes vs. 63 minutes). This is one of those rare cases (like Dawn of the Dead) where the US cut is actually the superior version. The shorter cut may barely qualify as a feature (what are the rules defining a short versus a feature?), but it is much tighter , has better pacing, and helps get us from start to finish in a more efficient fashion, while retaining the oddball, surreal tone of the project.

Before even trying to look at the plot, I think I need to take a guess at the genesis of this story. I have no actual insider knowledge, but it feels like the sort of low budget film where they had a few days to soot, access to a helicopter, and the availability of a really cool set. So, co-writer/director Rene Cardona Jr. set out to build something of a story based around the availability of parts as opposed to actual artistic endeavors. Although, I suspect the necessity of a tale to fit the parts could be seen as an artistic endeavor, a test of skills to create something to work within the given parameters.

Hugo Stiglitz (Tintorera, Nightmare City) stars as Hugo, a rich playboy who enjoys flying around Acapulco in his private helicopter and picking up hot women. Seems typical enough for the rich kid set, right? Sure, why not? The thing of it is, Hugo is not your typical rich playboy, he has a dark side that ties into his family's penchant for collecting things. Hugo collects heads. Yes, you read that right. He uses his money and helicopter to lure women to his monastery home where he wines and dines them before showing them his collection just prior to adding them to it. The collection is not limited to women, if someone interrupts him or gets in his way, it could mean their head.

You may be wondering when the cats come into play. Hugo has a large pen filled with meowing cats, it looks almost like one massive furry pile. They are involved in the cover up. Since Hugo only wants the head, what happens to the rest? I think you know where that is going... Cats like meat, right?

The Night of a Thousand Cats is a supremely bizarre film that takes us into creepy and bland world of a headhunter. I am at quite the loss to explain why this movie fascinates me. I will say that while the US cut definitely plays better than the uncut, it also plays better with a crowd all experiencing the utterly bizarre content at the same time. The expressionless Stiglitz, his limping bald butler (who meets a surreal demise), the helicopter hookups, random shots of meowing cats, and the unforgettable brandy snifters that are bigger than your head. This is an unforgettable experience that I can actually say I like. Still, it will not be one I frequent.


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