The Cat Creature is a 1973 American supernatural horror feature film made for television and directed by Curtis Harrington (Ruby; The Dead Don’t Die; The Killing Kind; Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?; Night Tide; et al) from a screenplay by Robert Bloch, based on a story by producer Douglas S. Cramer and Wilford Lloyd Baumes. The TV movie stars Meredith Baxter, David Hedison and Gale Sondergaard.
Frank Lucas, a licensed appraiser, goes to the home of a dead client to complete an inventory on a collection of ancient artifacts. He discovers a sarcophagus in the basement that holds a mummy wearing a gold amulet bearing a cat’s head with emerald eyes. However, he is killed by a feline creature.
A petty thief steals the amulet and tries to pawn it at The Sorcerer’s Shop, but the proprietress Hester Black throws him out.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Marco is investigating the murder of Frank Lucas with the expert advice of Roger Edmonds, an archeology professor. The theft of the amulet sets off a chain of murders…
“At a brisk 75 minutes it’s over quite promptly, leaving me, at least, wanting more, from the plaster Egyptian ‘artifacts’ to the autumnal palette. Harrington ensures every frame is a-drip with classic horror fan / 70s childhood manna…” Acidemic
“Cat Creature is a heady Curtis Harrington combination of high-gloss production values and spinechilling terror […] Screenwriter Robert Bloch intended this film as an affectionate throwback to the stylized horror films of old. Cat Creature is the sort of film that removes the “potboiler” stigma from the made-for-TV form.” All Movie
” …has some things going for it, including a reasonably good cast and a fairly interesting plot devised by writer Robert Bloch (of Psycho fame), which draws many parallels between mummies and vampires.” Justin McKinney, The Bloody Pit of Horror
“The Cat Creature is a relatively classy (albeit low-budget) affair until a high-camp climactic twist knocks it straight into the gonzosphere. Laughable ending notwithstanding, the film has enough going for it to warrant horror aficionados’ attention.” Ideological Content Analysis
“Harrington’s direction is ploddingly dull and fails to find anything in the way of atmosphere. Everything that happens is thuddingly obvious and is killed by a loud and overemphatic canned score. The script is a pedestrian detective story plot that schematically turns by the numbers and arrives at a desultory ending that barely lifts the show.” Richard Scheib, Moria
“The Cat Creature is a by-the-numbers TV-movie, but it’s also extremely cosy, perfect for a lazy morning. The wonderful cast is inspired – especially Gale Sondergaard, the talented and colourful actress who became a victim for the McCarthy-fascism, who also got a little comeback here…” Fred Anderson, Ninja Dixon
“Who better to direct The Cat Creature with its homage to the past than Curtis Harrington? A fine old school director if there ever was one, Harrington clearly understood his source and had respect for the Val Lewton movies of the ’40s […] Cat is a hard to find film that is worth seeking out.” The Terror Trap
“It does not apologize or wink at any of the more out there touches. Namely that Bloch’s Ancient Egyptian mythos is invented whole cloth; did you know the Tarot and Zodiac are just modern day descendants of it? Well you do now! A very fun, and very brown 75 minutes.” This Was Television
Hester Black: “I’m Hester Black. Sounds like a witch, doesn’t it? But my customers seem to like it. Most of them are into witchcraft, black magic, satanism. ”
Lieutenant Marco: “Straight eh? (laughs). Why you could sleep on a corkscrew.”
Cast and credits:
- Meredith Baxter … Rena Carter
- David Hedison … Professor Roger Edmonds – The Fly
- Gale Sondergaard … Hester Black – Echoes; Night Gallery TV series; The Spider Woman Strikes Back; The Spider Woman
- John Carradine … The Hotel Clerk
- Renne Jarrett … Sherry Hastings – The Ghosts of Buxley Hall
- Keye Luke … The Thief, Joe Sung – Gremlins 2; Dead Heat; Friday the 13th: The Series; Gremlins; Scooby Doo! Where Are You?; Mad Love; et al
- Kent Smith … Frank Lucas – Die Sister, Die!; How Awful About Allan; Cat People (1942)
- Stuart Whitman … Lieutenant Marco – Demonoid; Welcome to Arrow Beach; Night of the Lepus; et al
- Milton Parsons … The Deputy Coroner – Kolchak: The Night Stalker; The Dead Don’t Die; Night Gallery TV series; Cry of the Werewolf; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1942)
- Peter Lorre Jr. … The Pawnbroker
- John Abbott … Doctor Reinhart – Bewitched; The Munsters; Great Ghost Tales TV Series; The Vampire’s Ghost; Cry of the Werewolf
- Virgil Frye … Donovan – Werewolf TV series; Graduation Day; Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype; Up from the Depths; Garden of the Dead; Nightmare in Wax; Queen of Blood
- William Sims … Bert
December 11, 1973, on the ABC network
Director Curtis Harrington’s plans to make the Hester Black character a lesbian were shot down by the network’s standards and practices department, which sent him a threatening letter stipulating that there could be no references to homosexuality in the film. Annoyed by the network’s closed-mindedness, Harrington retaliated by adding a midget prostitute character into the film.
Image credits: Acidemic
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