Monthly Archives: October 2014

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Hocus Pocus DVD

Walt Disney Pictures
Starring:
 Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz
Directed by: Kenny Ortega

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: Three dastardly witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker & Kathy Najimy) in 1693 Salem are hung for killing a young girl to steal her life force.  The villagers don’t know that the witches have turned the girl’s brother, Thackery Binx (Sean Murray), into a cat and have condemned him to eternal life.  Three hundred years later on Halloween night a new kid in town, Max Dennison (Omri Katz), accidentally resurrects the sisters who then plot to steal Max’s little sister Dani’s (Thora Birch) life force.  With the help of Binx, who is still a cat, and a fellow student named Allison (Vinessa Shaw), they struggle to put an end to the witches’ evil practices once and for all.

Cinema Cat: This is a dark and scary movie considering it’s for kids but has garnered quite a following over the years and has become a favorite for many, especially around Halloween.  The black cat, Binx (who was voiced by Jason Marsden), figures prominently in the story since it is, in fact, the boy who first battled the witches back in the 17th century and he comes back to help the modern-day kids as a cat.

Hocus Pocus black cat Binx

The cat handler on this film was animal trainer Larry Madrid, who has worked on a large number of films including Forrest Gump, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Marmaduke and The Smurfs 1 and 2.  The special effects house Rhythm and Hues used both animatronic puppetry and digital animation to create Binx’s ability to speak.

Hocus Pocus black cat Binx on grave

Kitty Carnage Warning! The cat Binx dies at the end of the film but Binx’ spirit lives on.

Final Mewsings: Cats would rather have nine lives than one unending one.


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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD

Python (Monty) Pictures
Starring:
 Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin
Directed by: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

Synopsis: The British comedy team takes on historical drama and the legend of King Arthur and turns it on its head in this classic comedy.  King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are sent upon a quest by God for the Holy Grail, bringing them face-to-face with an oddball assortment of dangerous foes.

Purr Blurs (with Kitty Carnage Warnings!): There’s a somewhat subtle running joke throughout the film of black cats being mistreated.  As with much of the film, this is based on historical fact when cats (especially black cats) were looked upon as being evil or as witches familiars.  As such cats were often persecuted and killed.

When King Arthur enters one village a peasant is going through the town with a cart full of dead people, crying out “Bring out yer dead!”  In the background of this scene a woman is beating a cat against the wall.  Every time the cat hits the wall it lets out a wild screech (which is probably the only way one would even notice what is happening!)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail black cat being beat against wall

Later when the knights approach Camelot and we cut inside to see The Knights of the Round Table musical number one of the dancing knights trods upon a black cat, which lets out a screech.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail black cat stepped on by dancing knight in Camelot

Still later when King Arthur and Sir Bedevere are traveling through a forest they meet up with the Knights Who Say Ni, who order them to bring them a shrubbery.  While searching for said shrubbery the pair happen upon an old woman who is beating a black cat.  In all of these incidents the cat being used is obviously fake.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail black cat being beaten by old woman

Some have suggested that there are nine cats mistreated in the film, one for every cat’s life, but these are the only examples we could confirm.  It is possible that cats are being tossed over the castle walls during the French’s taunting of Arthur’s knights but we can’t make them out for certain.

Final Mewsings: Black cats have been mistreated throughout history but never this humorously.


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The Black Cat (1941)

The Black Cat 1941 poster

Universal Pictures
Starring:
 Broderick Crawford, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi
Directed by: Albert S. Rogell

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: The greedy family members of Henrietta Winslow (Cecilia Loftus) gather in her mansion when they think she is about to die.  When she doesn’t die and instead reveals that she has left her vast estate to her cats first and family second it sets the stage for murder, mayhem and yes, comedy.

Featured Feline: The black cat which the movie is named for is a lovely creature who sits through the opening credits and then causes fear amongst the relatives when it is said the cat means death to anyone it comes around.

The Black Cat 1941 black cat and shadow going down ramp

Which brings us to discuss the old lady, Henrietta.  She is a prime example of a crazy cat lady.  Not only does she own countless cats but she has a crematorium for them on the grounds of her estate and keeps their ashes in urns lining the walls.  A huge black cat statue stands guard over the crypt, as Henrietta believes black cats stand for death.  And this is where what should be a sympathic elderly cat lover falls apart, because it is revealed that the lone black cat in the story is not a cat she wanted on her property; on the contrary, she ordered her groundskeeper Eduardo Vigos (Bela Lugosi) to drown the black kitten but he saved it and kept it as a pet.

The Black Cat 1941 black cat close yowl

While the titles say the story was suggested by the Edgar Allan Poe tale, this movie has relatively nothing to do with that story except for one brief moment at the very end when the black cat meows from the crematorium furnace (and even then this doesn’t lead the hero to discover his girlfriend inside!)

The Black Cat 1941 black cat sitting

Cat Cattle Call: For an estate that is supposed to be crawling with cats there are oddly not that many in the movie and certainly not inside the house itself!  When the real estate agent Hubert (Broderick Crawford) and antiques dealer Penny (Hugh Herbert) first show up there is one spot they pass that is chuck full of cats (notice there are black cats included despite the supposed story about the one black cat on the estate).  The cats make Hubert sneeze and cough, of course someone has to be allergic to cats in the film!

The Black Cat 1941 group of cats

Later it is raining outside and Hubert confronts Eduardo about what he has in a carriage.  Hubert opens the doors and a bunch of cats burst out and run away.  Eduardo explains that he was trying to get the cats to the barn and out of the rain (thank goodness someone was thinking of the cats getting wet!)  These are the only two times Henrietta’s cats are seen en masse anywhere in the film.

When Henrietta is telling her family about her will she has two Siamese kittens sitting on her lap.

The Black Cat 1941 Siamese kittens

Kitty Carnage Warning! When Hubert and Henrietta are talking and passing back and forth an (unbeknownst to them) glass of poisoned milk, Hubert ends up pouring out a good portion of the milk into a saucer for a white cat.  Sadly the poor cat is seen deceased shortly afterwards, allowing Hubert to save Henrietta from drinking the milk herself.

The Black Cat 1941 white cat

Cat Burglars (Scene Stealers): At the very end of the film the black cat is discovered by Penny with a litter of kittens.  The black cat was actually a she cat!

The Black Cat 1941 black cat with kittens

Final Mewsings: Prejudism against black cats is deplorable.


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Tales of Mystery and Imagination – “The Black Cat”

Tales of Mystery and Imagination DVD

Original Air Date: September 28, 1995
Starring: Christopher Lee, Susan George, Michael McGovern
Directed by: Rod Stewart

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains spoilers for this episode!

Synopsis: Another telling of the classic Poe tale in which a man is driven by alcohol and his strong dislike for a black cat to a heinous act which he then tries to hide.

Featured Feline: This unusual anthology series is based solely on the works of Edgar Allan Poe and as such had to include an adaptation of The Black Cat.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination - The Black Cat in the dark

Sadly in this version the cat is not featured as much as he should be, but his few scenes are notable mostly for the cat’s striking green eyes.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination - The Black Cat close on eyes

The telling of the story is a bit awkward, with the story jumping back and forth in time, and the beginning is quite slow. But all in all it follows the story fairly closely.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination - The Black Cat and woman

The payoff at the end isn’t filmed in as satisfactory a manner as one would like, but at least we have host Christopher Lee interacting with the cat at the beginning and end of the piece.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination - The Black Cat and Christopher Lee

Kitty Carnage Warning! The woman finds the cat hanged by her husband, which is shown clearly.  There is a large disclaimer at the end of the episode stating that no animals were hurt during the making of the program.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination - The Black Cat and dead woman

Final Mewsings: The Black Cat story never gets old but sadly some adaptations just don’t do it justice.


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Vincent (1982)

Walt Disney Productions
Narrated by:
 Vincent Price
Directed by: Tim Burton

Synopsis: A delightfully dark stop-motion animated classic from the brilliant mind of Tim Burton.  Vincent Malloy is a seven-year-old boy who likes to pretend he is Vincent Price, ultimately losing himself in his tormented, twisted daydreams.

Kitty Cameos: The film starts with a black cat appearing from behind a tree beside a wall.

Vincent Tim Burton animated short black cat title

The cat leaps to the top of the wall and follows the sound of music playing through an open window.  The cat jumps to the windowsill and them down into the room where Vincent is playing a recorder or fife.

Vincent Tim Burton animated short black cat on wall

The cat rubs up against him and Vincent picks him up as Vincent Price explains via narration how Vincent imagines himself to be Vincent Price.

Vincent Tim Burton animated short black cat and boy

Vincent Tim Burton animated short black cat and boy cuddle

Vincent undergoes a metamorphosis to look like Price.  When the cat notices he screeches, arches his back and runs away.

Vincent Tim Burton animated short black cat and boy as Vincent Price

Vincent Tim Burton animated short black cat jumps and runs

When Vincent leaves the room we see his dog, little sister and two cats sitting in the other room.

Vincent Tim Burton animated short dog sister and cats

Final Mewsings: When your imagination scares cats it’s time to fantasize about something else!


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