EYE OF THE CAT (1969) Reviews and overview

 

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‘Terror that takes you beyond any fear you’ve ever known!’

Eye of the Cat is a 1969 American horror-thriller film about a young man who wants to gain his aunt’s inheritance but is afraid of felines.

Directed by David Lowell Rich (Satan’s School for Girls; The Horror at 37,000 Feet) from a screenplay by Joseph Stefano (Psycho IV: The Beginning; Snowbeast 1977; Home for the Holidays; Psycho 1960).

The Joseph L. Schenck Enterprises production stars Michael Sarrazin (Feardotcom; The Seduction; The Reincarnation of Peter Proud; Frankenstein: The True Story), Gayle Hunnicutt (The Spiral Staircase; Voices; The Legend of Hell House; Fragment of Fear), Eleanor Parker and Tim Henry (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem).

The soundtrack score was composed by Lalo Schifrin (Tales of HalloweenThe Amityville HorrorEnter the DragonDirty HarryBullitt).

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Plot:

Young couple Wylie (Michael Sarrazin) and Kassia (Gayle Hunnicutt) concoct a scheme to rob wealthy, cat-loving Aunt Danny (Eleanor Parker). However, their plans go awry when Wyle’s compulsive feline phobia comes up against the many cats defending the older lady’s San Francisco mansion.

Recent Blu-ray release:

In the UK, Powerhouse Films released Eye of the Cat on 28th June 2021. Special features:

High Definition remaster
Two presentations of the film: the theatrical version (102 mins), presented in High Definition; the TV version (102 mins), presented in Standard Definition
Original mono audio
Audio commentary with The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television editor Kevin Lyons (2021)
Pussies Galore (2021): writer and critic Kim Newman on Eye of the Cat and the feline horror subgenre
Original theatrical trailer
Radio spot
Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Kasandra O’Connell, archival articles and interviews, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits.
Limited edition of 3,000 copies

Reviews:

“It’s not exactly clear what the cats are capable of; there are hints that they are both malevolent protectors of the aunt and also harmless pets manipulated to scare pretty vacant schemer Wylie (Michael Sarrazin). The sexual relationship between Wylie and his aunt is definitely interesting in a creepy way, but the film is much more successful when pursuing straight thrills…” AllMovie

“Slow-motion photography, harsh lighting and extra-loud growling and hissing (overlaid with a similar ferocity to The Birds soundtrack), together with the terrified reactions of cat-phobic Wiley, sells the idea of the dozens of cats as malevolent and violent.” Black Hole

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Eye of the Cat is a fun and sexy thriller filled with beautiful vistas and actors. Within this gorgeous milieu lies a master/slave dialectic that often characterizes the relationships between Kassia/Wylie, Danny/Luke, and Wylie/Danny. I don’t want to divulge the dynamics of each for those who haven’t seen the film but it’s a strength of Stefano’s writing for making us guess what each character will ultimately decide to do.” Blu-ray.com

” …there is a fair bit of padding in Eye of the Cat at 102 minutes, including a fun yet useless scene at a San Francisco hippie den, and repetitive interactions between Wylie and Kassia slow the story down. But frankly, I didn’t mind because the script turns the screws and upends the story in the third act in genuinely surprising ways that I did not see coming…” Daily Dead

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Eye of the Catgenerates genuine tension as a crime caper thriller, keeps you guessing as a psychological suspense flick, and works your nerves as a supernatural horror film about potentially pernicious pussycats. With so many plots to juggle, Eye of the Cat can perhaps be forgiven the mood-killing miscalculations of throwing in an obligatory ’60s party scene and a lengthy “love montage.” Dreams Are What for Le Cinema is For

“Gayle Hunnicutt underplays the cold, scheming, sexually desirable girlfriend, Eleanor Parker as the classy but desperately lonely aunty, and Sarrazin as the ailurophobic (fear of cats), carefree, playboy whose looks and hollow charm have carried him through most of his drifting existence. It’s a darn interesting mix with the murder plot being almost blasé as compared to the interpersonal conflicts that arise.” DVD Beaver

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” …the movie never lets up, though I do feel that the movie ends up giving away one of its main plot twists too early in the proceeding. The movie does a fine job of turning house cats into creatures of terror, and I also like the somewhat odd ending, though I could see how others might be disappointed by it. If the first hour of the movie was good…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Unusually for a studio horror film around the time, the film objectifies its two male stars even more than Hunnicutt, seemingly finding any excuse to get them shirtless and soaking wet at every opportunity […] However, today it has immense value for its time-capsule status, not just for the chance to enjoy the cast (who weren’t quite A-listers but do fine work here) but for the colorful depiction of San Francisco counterculture around that time…” Mondo Digital

“It winds through some muddled character interplay before ending on an even more improbably contrived climax. Characterisation is poor with the actors given little in the way of psychological motivation. Eye of the Cat is considerably balanced out by David Lowell Rich’s direction.” Moria

“As a cynical blackly comic thriller at the fag end of the ’60s with free love and the odd catfight, it’s a serviceable watch. As a horror in which the cats fight, it doesn’t raise the hairs on the back of the neck. It is hard to be horrified when your foe could be vanquished with a can of Whiskers and a tickle under the chin.” The Movie Waffler

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“The film has a few twists although I saw them coming long before they happened. The film isn’t bad for its type, but it fails to distinguish itself and becomes nothing more than a passable time-filler.” Scopophilia

Eye of the Cat is what happens when you have a screenplay entirely concerned with being a thriller (by Joseph Stefano) and a director, Rich, who is completely incapable of directing thrills. There’s nothing else to the script, so the actors don’t have anything to do, and pretty San Francisco scenery only goes so far. Especially given how poorly Rich presents it.” The Stop Button

Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

Contemporary reviews:

“David Lowell Rich’s direction creates electric tension and real horror. However, the scenario by Joseph Stefano, who wrote no less a thriller than Hitchcock’s Psycho, literally drops the cats about midpoint, then drags the animals back for a climax that is as hokey as it is horrible.” The New York Times
Variety wrote that the plot developments were “telegraphed from the beginning of the pic” and that the script “was written for scare value with little attention paid to gaps in logic,” though director David Lowell Rich was commended for getting the actors “to speak bad lines with straight faces.”
Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called the film “so unintentionally hilarious that one would be tempted to recommend it were not the price of theater admissions so high these days.”
Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film “Transparently clever but fundamentally trite,” and suggested the film “would make more sense if the murderers succeeded and then found to their dismay that Aunt Danny’s cats, supposedly long gone, were gradually finding their way back home, as cats are wont to do.”
The British Film Institute’s Monthly Film Bulletin called it “amiably outlandish” and “not so much a good film as an extravagantly enjoyable one.”

Choice dialogue:

“I don’t like alleys”

Cast and characters:

Michael Sarrazin … Wylie
Gayle Hunnicutt … Kassia Lancaster
Eleanor Parker … Aunt Danny
Tim Henry … Luke
Laurence Naismith … Doctor Mills
Jennifer Leak … Poor Dear
Linden Chiles … Bendetto
Mark Herron … Bellemonde
Annabelle Garth … Socialite
Tullia … Cat

Filming locations:

2100 Washington St., San Francisco, California (house exteriors)
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California (driving location)
Lafayette Park, Gough and Washington Streets, San Francisco, California (park scene)
Sausalito, California (docks scene)

Technical details:

102 minutes
Techniscope
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Working title:

Wylie

Trailer:

Wylie’s fear of cats:

Wylie encounters the cats:

Wheelchair scene: