Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad poster

Walt Disney Productions
Starring:
 Bing Crosby
Directed by: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney

Synopsis: An animated telling of two classic stories; The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

Cartoon Cats: Now a Halloween favorite, the Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is difficult for many to separate from the original text.  Narrated and partly sung by Bing Crosby, the story follows the exploits of new school teacher Ichabod Crane as he arrives in town and begins to woo the ladies, mostly for their good cooking.  When Ichabod first arrives in town he is walking down the street with his nose buried in a book.  He is a superstitious fellow and avoids walking under a ladder.  Then a black cat prances out in front of him.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - black cat steps out in front of Ichabod

Ichabod deftly uses the handle of his umbrella to hook the cat’s tail and turn him right around so it doesn’t cross his path.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - Ichabod Crane turns black cat around with umbrella handle animated gif

Later the town is shown at rest and a dog and an orange cat are seen sleeping.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - orange cat and dog seen sleeping in the street

Moments later there is a horrible sound (Ichabod training a ladies’ choir) and the cat and dog leap up in terror.  The cat bolts into a nearby tree.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - orange cat and dog jump up reacting to horrible sound

Finally when the spooky part of the story begins, Brom Bones decides to scare Ichabod by telling the story of the Headless Horseman.  As Ichabod shakes with terror he spills hot coffee on a black cat who is sleeping at his feet.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - black cat sleeping at Ichabod Crane's feet

The cat leaps up and jumps into a jack-o-lantern.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - Ichabod Crane spills coffee on a black cat which jumps into a jack-o-lantern animated gif

Final Mewsings: Orange and black cats equal Halloween!.


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Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Escape to Witch Mountain poster

Walt Disney Productions
Starring:
 Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Eddie Albert
Directed by: John Hough

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

Synopsis: Tia (Kim Richards) and Tony (Ike Eisenmann) Malone are orphans who possess extrasensory perception and powers which brings them to the attention of ruthless multi-millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) who will stop at nothing to use their talents for his gain.

Cinema Cat: Tia and Tina’s companion is Winkie the black cat.  Winkie was in the original novel by Alexander H. Key and in the book the children were sent to a juvenile detention home which is where Tia befriended her.  In the movie the children are sent to a child welfare home.  Winkie appears when a bully named Truck (Dermott Downs) takes Tina’s star case.  The cat is watching the exchange and then leaps at Truck, knocking the case from his hands.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat looking up

Winkie climbs into a tree and meows.  Tony says, “Nice goin’, Winkie!” as the cat winks at them.  This is achieved by the film being run back and forth as the cat actor closes one eye.  According to the film’s director John Hough in the commentary track for the DVD, the shot of Winkie climbing into the tree was shot by a specialist who waited for the right situation to get the correct shots.  Several cats were used in the making of the film.  As for Winkie’s wink, it was eventually achieved by spraying some kind of harmless liquid into the cat’s eye, which was carefully supervised by an animal cruelty prevention officer.  Hough explained that Disney was always adamant about the safety of the animals used in his pictures (the White Wilderness controversy notwithstanding).

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat winking animated gif

Winkie is a close companion of the children and accompanies them when they are adopted by their supposed uncle Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasance).  They are taken in a limousine to the home of Deranian’s employee, Artistotle Bolt.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat with Tony and Tia in back of limo

Eventually the children realize they are in danger in the mansion and decide to escape.  They take Winkie with them and Winkie helps them escape from the gate by making Lorko (Tiger Joe Marsh) the guard sneeze.  Winkie then jumps from the guard house into the arms of Tony on the back of Thunderhead the horse.  Actor Ike Eisenmann explained on the DVD commentary that Winkie the cat was thrown at him and landed with all claws out.  Unfortunately the scene had to be shot several times.  Both Ike and Kim commented on the cat actor scratching them.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat with Tony and Tia in back of limo

The children stow away in the Winnebago of a lone drifter named Jason O’Day (Eddie Albert).  He sees Winkie and is friendly to the cat but not as friendly to the children at first.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat being petted by O'Day

Later O’Day can’t find his keys and he thinks the children have taken them to force him to take them where they want to go.  As Tina starts the Winnebago with her mind, Winkie finds the keys in the sand and brings them back to O’Day.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat fetches keys

Winkie also saves the say when Deranian and his henchman find the Winnebago and approach it threateningly.  Winkie has heard them and climbs into a tree then jumps down, knocking the gun from the henchman’s hand and alerting the others inside of the danger.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat in tree looking down

At the end of the film the children ask O’Day to keep Winkie for them.  Winkie meows her approval.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat being looked at by O'Day

O’Day holds Winkie up as the spaceship takes off.  It would have been nice if Winkie could have winked again but it was not to be.  Winkie also did not return for any of the film’s sequels.

Escape to Witch Mountain - Winkie black cat being held up by O'Day

Final Mewsings: Both witches and aliens appreciate black cats!


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The Circus (1928)

The Circus poster

Charles Chaplin Productions
Starring:
 Charlie Chaplin, Merna Kennedy, Al Ernest Garcia
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin

Synopsis: A tramp (Charlie Chaplin) falls in love with a circus performer (Merna Kennedy) and accepts demeaning work for little pay, not realizing her cruel father, also the circus proprietor (Al Ernest Garcia), is taking advantage of the fact that the tramp unknowingly has been wowing the audiences with his comedic manuevers.

Cat Burglar (Scene Stealer): In one segment the tramp gets locked into a lion’s cage and the girl gets him out.  They sit down on some hay bales and she reminds him that she said the lions were dangerous.  The tramp shrugs nonchalantly, then a black kitten jumps into frame from behind and scares him.

The Circus - black kitten scares The Tramp animated gif

The tramp picks up the kitten just as the head property manager (Tiny Sandford) shows up to find out what happened to the horse pill the Tramp swallowed earlier.

The Circus - The Tramp holding up black kitten

The Tramp then hands it to the girl who sits behind the two men holding the black kitten on her lap.

The Circus - girl holds black kitten in background

Eventually the Tramp sits down next to her again and she holds the kitten as she tells him how unfair it is that he gets paid so little when he’s the star of the show.

The Circus - girl holding black kitten on lap with Tramp

Final Mewsings: It’s not easy to steal a scene from Chaplin!


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Practical Magic (1998)

Practical Magic DVD

DiNovi Pictures
Starring:
 Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Griffin Dunne

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

Synopsis: Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) are sisters being raised by their aunts (Stockard Channing and Dianne Weist) as witches who have to deal with a family curse in which any man the women of the family fall in love with die sudden deaths.

Featured Feline: In the early scenes of the film we see the sisters as children (played by Camilla Belle and Lora Anne Criswell) and their aunts sitting around a picnic table outdoors.  A small black kitten is also on the table.

Practical Magic - black kitten on picnic table in front of Sally Camilla Belle

The kitten can also be seen on the kitchen table as the girls are practicing their magic spells.

Practical Magic - black kitten on kitchen table with Gillian Lora Anne Criswell and Dianne Wiest

Gillian is later seen holding the kitten as she approaches her sister who is casting a spell in an attempt to keep from falling in love.

Practical Magic - black kitten being carried by Gillian Lora Anne Criswell

Later in the film the sisters are grown and so is the kitten, who is now a black cat.  The cat is seen in the background of several scenes.

Practical Magic - black cat lying on table

The cat also hisses when the sisters drag Gillian’s ex-boyfriend (and we do mean EX-boyfriend) into the house.

Practical Magic - black cat hissing on stairs animated gif

Gillian is also seen holding the black cat close to the end of the movie.

Practical Magic - black cat held by Gillian Nicole Kidman

Final Mewsings: Black cats may be a witch’s familiar but that doesn’t mean they want to be an accomplice.


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Kuroneko (1968)

Kuroneko DVD

English Title: Black Cat
Toho Company
Starring:
 Nobuko Otowa, Kichiemon Nakamura, Kiwako Taichi
Directed by: Kaneto Shindô

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

Synopsis: A classic-style Japanese ghost story in which a farming matriarch (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Kiwako Taichi) are raped and killed by samurai warriors, leading to revenging spirits slaughtering unwary samurai in their memory.

Featured Feline: The murders happen at the beginning of the film and the samurai set the women’s home on fire after leaving.  When the fire dies down the two woman are left lying amongst the ashes.  A black cat appears and wanders around the women, looking lost and forlorn.

Kuroneko - black cat near bodies of dead women

Kuroneko - black cat near body of dead woman

Kuroneko - black cat sitting on chest of dead women

Kuroneko - close up of black cat

While the cat is only seen briefly after this in shots throughout the film it turns out to play a very important part in the proceedings.

Kuroneko - black cat sitting up high on gate

Kuroneko - close up of black cat's eyes

Final Mewsings: Don’t piss off a cat!


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