Original Air Date: January 12, 1973
Starring: Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Mike Lookinland
Directed by: Hal Cooper
Synopsis: Bobby (Mike Lookinland) takes his new role as his school’s safety monitor a little too seriously, alienating him from not only his friends but his family when he begins to assert his authority at home.
Kitty Cameo On his way home from taking school photos in his best suit, Bobby is approached by a girl named Jill (Shawn Schepps) who frantically begs Bobby to help rescue her cat, Pandora, from a boarded-up, abandoned house. Against his better judgement after telling everyone else to obey rules above all else, Bobby breaks into the house and searches for the wayward cat. He hears her meowing from the chimney and looks inside.
Pandora leaps down in a cloud of soot and runs to the window where Jill is reunited with her precious pet. Not only Bobby is covered with soot but Pandora is as well.
Fortunately Pandora would escape the famous washing machine fiasco which occurs shortly thereafter.
Final Mewsings: Cats can wash themselves and they won’t flood your laundry room with suds.
National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
Starring: Jay Brazeau, Ida Osler, Randy Woods, Bill Guest
Directed by: Richard Condie
Cat Out of the Bag Alert! This review contains some spoilers for this film!
Synopsis: In this hilarious animated short film a married couple are having an argument over a game of Scrabble, while in the greater world outside their door (and unbeknownst to them) a nuclear holocaust is taking place.
Cartoon Kitty: There are so many funny running jokes in this short film, not the least of which is the reappearance of the couple’s pet cat who finds himself in a series of injury-inducing and life-threatening scenarios.
The accident-prone feline first goes flying off the birdcage when he tries to get at the family parrot, then chews through the television cord to electrocute himself, then is almost sawn in half by the saw-obsessed husband. In all of these he lets out a gut-wrenching and hilarious scream. At the end of the short he just wants to get away, but of course it’s already too late.
Final Mewsings: Sometimes a cat needs to have nine lives!
The Big Snit by Richard Condie, National Film Board of Canada
Synopsis: Feline entries into the 1953 Kensington Kitten and Neuter Cat Club Show are showcased.
Reality Cats: A newsreel segment from British Pathé shows several of the beautiful cat entries in this show. Among the spotlighted cats are a Himalayan, Blue Persians, a tuxedo kitten being judged and Persian kittens.
Final Mewsings: Even back in the 1950’s cats made great news footage.
Dino De Laurentiis Company
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Candy Clark, James Naughton
Directed by: Lewis Teague
Cat Out of the Bag Alert! This review contains spoilers for this film!
Synopsis: A trilogy of Stephen King stories, two of which were based on the writer’s original short stories and one of which King wrote specifically for Drew Barrymore in this film. This is a fun, creepy set of stories dripping with King’s style of dark comedy. The segments are “Quitters, Inc.” in which a man resorts to a strange company which guarantees a sure-fire way to quit smoking, “The Ledge” in which a gambler enacts revenge on his wife’s lover by forcing him to accept a potentially lethal bet, and “General” in which a girl (Drew Barrymore) adopts a stray cat which attempts to protect her from a strange monster in her room.
Cinema Cat: The main cat, a tabby whom we learn in the final segment is named “General,” ties all of the stories together and appears throughout the film. General is truly the hero of the story, and although he plays a small part in the other two main stories he is the focus of the connecting segments, in which he is traveling on a mysterious quest on behalf of a mysterious girl (whom we later realize is the girl in the last segment).
12 different cats were used in the making of the movie. As the director explained in the DVD commentary, this was mainly because the cat trainers used food as a positive reinforcement and after so many takes the cat being used wouldn’t be hungry any more and they would move on to the next cat. The animal trainer for this film was the notable Karl Lewis Miller who director Lewis Teague explained had a strong telepathic connection with the animals he worked with (he also worked on the films Babe and Bruce Almighty.)
Kitty Cameos: There are some other cats seen in the film, including the cat seen with Drew Barrymore in a commercial at the begining of the second segment, as well as many cats and kittens in the animal shelter in the third segment.
Kitty Carnage Warning: There are several scenes throughout the film in which General is shown being hurt or threatened in some way. In the first segment General is seen in an enclosure with an electrified floor (in the DVD commentary, director Lewis Teague explained that an air pressure hose was beneath the floor and is what the cat was actually reacting to.) In the second segment General is in danger while trying to cross a busy thoroughfare (again the director explained a split-screen shot was used and the cat was perfectly safe.) And in the final segment he is injured as he is fighting the creature.
Final Mewsings: Cats are killers but not of little girls.
Walt Disney Productions
Starring: Émile Genest, John Drainie, Sandra Scott
Also Starring: Syn, Muffey, Rink
Directed by: Fletcher Markle
Synopsis: Based on the book by Sheila Burnford. Three animals, a young Labrador Retriever named Luath (played by Rink), a Siamese cat named Tao (played by Syn) and an older Bull Terrier named Bodger (played by Muffey), are being cared for by their owners’ friend, John Longridge (Émile Genest). When Longridge goes duck hunting the animals set off across the rugged Canadian wilderness in an effort to find their way home.
Cinema Cat: Syn the Siamese Cat shines in his role as Tao in this film and many of the scenes are devoted to him solely. There are several times when Tao causes trouble but then there are many times when Tao is a hero, stepping in to protect his canine friends or catching food for them.
Syn is a cat actor with real screen presence. Walt Disney must have noticed this as well, because Syn would later star in the Disney film That Darn Cat! alongside Hayley Mills. William Koehler was the trainer of Syn for both films.
Kitty Carnage Warning! Some people have pointed a harsh finger at this film as being a prime example of animal cruelty in films. Certainly there are notorious examples in these live-action Disney nature films where animals were reportedly injured or killed (the lemmings “suicide” in White Wilderness being a prime example). Some scenes in this film are certainly cringe-worthy for those who cannot stand to see animals in any kind of distress. Tao is shown many times hissing, fighting and screeching, something many a cat actor has been somehow cajoled to do on film. In all honesty, the worst offense in this film is the fact that they put animal actors together who really probably should not have been sharing the screen, seeing as how even in the best of circumstances there are chances for things to go wrong, i.e. the bear and the lynx scenes in particular. But by the same token we don’t see any real evidence onscreen of the animals hurting one another in these scenes. And the scene where Tao is washed downstream is honestly not as traumatic to see as the one in the later remake, but neither is as bad as the scenes in Koneko Monogatari. In any case, we can’t confirm or deny any harm coming to the animals in this film but if you are super sensitive to watching animals in peril you may want to give this one a pass.
Final Mewsings: Planning a long journey through the wilderness? Better bring a cat along!