The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

The Comedy of Terrors poster

American International Pictures (AIP)
Starring:
 Vincent Price, Peter Lorre
Also Starring:  Rhubarb
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

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

Synopsis: A dark comedy in which a funeral parlor director named Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) strives to drum up business, even when there isn’t any.

Cinema Cat: This film is a major starring role for cat actor Rhubarb (aka Orangey) who holds his own against a bevy of classic film and theatre actors. In this film, Rhubarb plays a female cat named Cleopatra who lives at the funeral parlor. Cleopatra is first seen entering the basement where Trumbull’s lackey Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre) is working.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat credit at opening of film

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat walking down steps into basement of funeral parlor

Gillie pulls a rope taut, causing Cleopatra to hiss and then run upstairs. Gillie was actually just preparing to measure some wood for a coffin.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat hissing

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat hissing at Gillie Peter Lorre with rope animated gif

Upstairs, Cleopatra sits at the breakfast table with Trumbull, his beautiful but tone-deaf wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson) and her ancient father Amos (Boris Karloff).

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat close up at table

Cleopatra hangs around until Amaryllis starts to sing, at which point she takes off running.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on table

Cleopatra likes to sleep with Amos, but on one occassion goes out with Trumbull and Gillie on the hearse. At the end of their ride Trumbull gets off and basically knocks poor Cleopatra right off the seat!

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sleeping on Amos Boris Karloff

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on seat of hearse coach with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on seat of hearse coach with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

Trumbull has come up with a plan to kill his landlord Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone), thereby eliminating the debt the man holds over him and making some money on the funeral to boot. Cleopatra comes along as they approach the man’s mansion.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat walking towars mansion with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

Cleopatra watches as Gillie climbs a precarious rooftop to reach a second story window. She also watches as Gillie comes sliding down later (achieved with some very clever reverse footage).

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat looking up through bars

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger watching Gillie Peter Lorre sliding down roof animated gif

When they return to the funeral parlor, Cleopatra is sitting on top of the hearse.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of hearse coach with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

Amaryllis sings at Black’s funeral, which causes Cleopatra to cringe (also using reverse motion footage).

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat holding paw over ear

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger putting paw over ear animated gif

Later Cleopatra watches as Gillie and Amaryllis (who have feelings for each other) dance and celebrate while Amos plays the violin. Amos eventually wears himself out and falls asleep on the floor.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat on top of clock

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of Amos Boris Karloff

The cat actor in these scenes is such a pro that they don’t move an inch, even when Amaryllis and Gillie both step over them.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of Amos Boris Karloff with Amaryllis Joyce Jamison and Gillie Peter Lorre in foreground

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat about to be stepped over

From this point, Cleopatra is seen only occasionally until the end when a strange series of circumstances leaves Black lying on the living room floor. As the cat sniffs at him, Black sneezes.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of Black Basil Rathbone

The end credits are especially nice, since Cleopatra is given the last credit and is seen licking her paw.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat end credit as Cleopatra inside wreath

Cleopatra, or rather Rhubarb, then steps through the wreath and walks around the funeral parlor set as the credits role. There are also some nice shots from beneath the coffin (which has a glass bottom) when Rhubarb climbs inside.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat end credit stepping out of wreath

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat end credit walking around funeral parlor

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat in coffin from below

At the very end the coffin lid starts to fall and the cat leaps out in the nick of time.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat climbing out of coffin

What’s especially notable about this film is the star billing Rhubarb received for his role. He was not only listed in the opening and closing credits but in newspaper listings which included the film’s cast. The casting of Rhubarb was even reported in newspapers. The New York Daily News reported on August 25, 1963, “The role of Cleopatra in American International’s ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ has been bestowed upon Rhubarb, veteran feline character actor.” Someone at the Daily News must not have gotten the memo because the same news was also reported in the gossip column on November 3, 1963, pointing out that Rhubarb is a he instead of a she.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat Rhubarb ginger cat end creditstepping out of wreath

Part of the reason Rhubarb’s casting in this film made news was because the prolific cat actor was returning to film work as a veteran (much the same as many of the human actors in the movie). As The Los Angeles Times reported on January 20, 1964, “Hollywood’s award-winning feline star, Rhubarb, returns to films in ‘The Comedy of Terrors.’ Rhubarb, at the advanced cat age of 18 (which is equivalent to 126 human years), co-stars with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown and Basil Rathbone in the terror comedy which opens next Wednesday in a citywide run.”

The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, gave Rhubarb a special mention in their review of the film on February 9, 1964, stating at the end, “and an added eerie performance is given by Rhubarb the cat.”

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat on top of clock

Rhubarb’s trainer, Frank Inn, proudly discussed Rhubarb’s return to film in an article published in The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) on March 10, 1964, when Rhubarb, then 19 years old, was still landing roles. Inn explained that Rhubarb was making $1,000 a week and was much in demand even after already making 500 movie and television appearances.

This “return” to film seems a bit confusing when you take into consideration all of the acting roles that seemed to be done by Rhubarb, who also went by the names of Orangey, Rusty and Minerva (all of whom were credited as being trained by Inn.) Did Rhubarb really retire and then return to acting after an absence?

What is rarely discussed (although we have touched upon it many times on this site) is the fact that cat actors are usually played by teams of cats. As Inn explained in the same article for The Evening Sun, “No single cat could master all the tricks the writers think up.” Indeed, Rhubarb, Orangey, et al. was actually a team of cats. Orangey was the stand-out star of Rhubarb (and adopted the name Rhubarb on some credits after that time) and it’s possible other members of the team took a more prominent role in later Orangey / Rhubarb appearances, explaining the “return” of Rhubarb. Another possibility is that Inn simply decided to revisit the name Rhubarb to give more publicity to the team’s projects.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat on carpet

There is a wonderful publicity still for The Comedy of Terrors which seems to bear out this theory. It shows a group of nine tabby cats sitting in a coffin. We believe this is one of the only photos of the entire Rhubarb team, and specific cats are recognizable from their roles in films and TV shows over the years credited to Orangey.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cats team nine cats in coffin publicity photo

Final Mewsings: Cat actors are team players!


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My Sister Eileen (1942)

My Sister Eileen poster

Columbia Pictures Corporation
Starring:
 Rosalind Russell, Richard Quine
Directed by: Alexander Hall

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

Synopsis: Sisters Ruth (Rosalind Russell) and Eileen Sherwood (Janet Blair) leave Ohio and move to New York City to pursue their careers.

Kitty Cameo: The sisters move into a basement apartment where many zany things happen to them. During one scene a young man named Frank (Richard Quine) comes to call on Eileen. As he is remarking on how he has always wanted to live in such an apartment, a tabby cat jumps in through the window followed closely by a dog.

My Sister Eileen - Frank Richard Quine standing in front of basement window where tabby cat is entering

My Sister Eileen - Frank Richard Quine standing in front of basement window where tabby cat is entering

My Sister Eileen - Frank Richard Quine standing in front of basement window where tabby cat is entering

The dog chases the cat through the apartment.

My Sister Eileen - tabby cat running into hallway

My Sister Eileen - tabby cat jumping into apartment behind Frank Richard Quine and going into hallway animated gif

A musical version of this film was made in 1955 and also includes the scene with the cat.

Final Mewsings: Cats assume people won’t mind if they drop in unexpectedly.


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The Love Light (1921)

The Love Light poster

Mary Pickford Company
Starring:
 Mary Pickford, George Regas
Directed by: Frances Marion

Synopsis: War touches the lives of lighthouse keeper Angela (Mary Pickford) and her brothers.

Purr Blur: The film opens in the little town where Angela lives. A rising young profiteer named Tony (George Regas) is seen selling fish. There is a disagreement between a customer and Tony when Tony’s monkey is seen pulling down the scale. Tony gets angry and the crowd of children gathered around his table scatter, revealing a tiny tabby kitten in front of the stand.

The Love Light - tabby kitten in front of fish stand with Tony George Regas

The Love Light - tabby kitten in front of fish stand with Tony George Regas

Final Mewsings: Kittens are not easily scared away from fish.


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La noche de los mil gatos (1972)

The Night of 1000 Cats poster

English Title: The Night of a Thousand Cats
Avant Films S.A.
Starring:
 Hugo Stiglitz, Anjanette Comer
Directed by: René Cardona Jr.

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

Synopsis: A rich playboy (Hugo Stiglitz) picks up girls around Acapulco in his helicopter and whisks them away to his castle where he keeps two very bizarre collections.

Cat Cattle Call: You would think a movie with a title such as this one would appeal to cat lovers, but be warned, this is a very unfriendly movie towards cats and is chock full of Kitty Carnage Warnings! The overall plot is so insipid but needs some explanation. The playboy guy whose name is Hugo takes the women he picks up to his gothic castle in the middle of nowhere. Aided by his mute flunky named Dorgo (Gerardo Zepeda), he keeps one thousand cats in an enclosure. One thousand is a bit of an exaggeration, as there are probably closer to 300 cats in the enclosure. It’s still a lot of cats all thrown into one area together.

The Night of 1000 Cats - multiple cats in one large pen

The Night of 1000 Cats - close up of tabby cat

The Night of 1000 Cats - multiple cats in one large pen

Shots of the cats are interspersed throughout the film.

The Night of 1000 Cats - multiple cats in one large pen

The Night of 1000 Cats - close of calico cat

The Night of 1000 Cats - multiple cats in one large pen

Hugo kills the women and keeps their heads in crystal cases. Their bodies are chopped up and fed to the cats by Hugo and Dorgo. Hugo even partakes in some of the meat himself.

The Night of 1000 Cats - meat being thrown to multiple cats in one large pen

The Night of 1000 Cats - Hugo and Dorgo throwing meat down to multiple cats in one large pen

Kitty Carnage Warning!  But Hugo is far from being a cat lover and treats his cats with contempt and violence. The first woman we see visit the castle is served meat (the source of which is already questionable). She is then startled when a white cat leaps onto the table. Hugo is quick to grab the cat, not even by the scruff but by the skin on its back! Hugo picks up the cat this way and flings the poor animal around violently. He then carries the cat to the pen and unbelievable lobs the poor thing up and over the wire wall of the enclosure! The cat goes flying and lands on its feet amongst the other cats, but it looks like a hard fall either way.

The Night of 1000 Cats - white cat being grabbed violently on table

The Night of 1000 Cats - white cat being grabbed violently by Hugo Stiglitz

Kitty Cameos:  Apart from the cat collection at the castle, two other cats make appearances in the film. One of the women owns a white cat which is seen sitting with her and Hugo in her apartment.

The Night of 1000 Cats - girl sitting with white cat on couch with Hugo

The Night of 1000 Cats - girl lying on lawn chair with white cat and Hugo in background

Kitty Carnage Warning!  Unfortunately this girl leaves and Hugo takes out his anger on the cat, dunking it into the pool to drown.

The Night of 1000 Cats - Hugo Stiglitz grabbing white cat by pool

A black cat is the pet of the daughter of one of Hugo’s other potential victims.

The Night of 1000 Cats - little girl sitting in woods with black cat

At one point the black cat is seen licking at the head of the child’s doll. A foreshadowing of events to come?

The Night of 1000 Cats - black cat licking at unattached head of doll

Eventually the cats escape the pen and attack Hugo violently, and even turn on the woman he was trying to kill. During these scenes the cats are thrown all over the place. Some are thrown onto a flat clear glass and shot from beneath to give the impression they are attacking. Of course, as is usually the case in these kind of movies, the cats don’t appear to be attacking anyone. The girl escapes and Hugo is last seen being devoured by the cats.

The Night of 1000 Cats - multiple cats escaping from large pen

The Night of 1000 Cats - multiple cats running down stone steps

The Night of 1000 Cats - cat being thrown at actress

The Night of 1000 Cats - multiple cats running down corridor

The Night of 1000 Cats - cats filmed from below being dropped on glass pane

The Night of 1000 Cats - cats eating Hugo in background

Faux Cats:  Two stuffed cats are so awful that they must be mentioned. One of Hugo’s ancestors was apparently a taxidermist, but by the look of these cats he wasn’t a very good one.

The Night of 1000 Cats - close up of badly stuffed cat

The Night of 1000 Cats - stuffed chimpanzee with cat head on wall

Final Mewsings: All of the cats in this movie probably wish they could have been replaced with stuffed doubles!


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Bob – “La Sorpresa”

Bob DVD

Original Air Date: January 8, 1993
Starring: Bob Newhart, Cynthia Stevenson
Directed by: Michael Zinberg

Synopsis: Bob (Newhart) hates birthday surprises and the singing of the birthday song at the best of times, but even moreso when he has a crushing headache.

Featured Feline: Otto the cat makes two of his classic appearances in this episode. At the beginning Kaye calls down to Bob to let Otto inside. Bob walks out through the kitchen door and calls to Otto to come. But Otto is inside the house and approaches the door, then leans against it to lock Bob outside. If you look closely you can see the treat placed on the door to make the cat actor push on it.

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto approaching door with cat treat on hinge

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto pushing on door

Otto runs upstairs and Kaye calls down, “Never mind, Bob! Here he is!” Bob is still locked outside and points out it wasn’t funny the first time.

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto closing kitchen door

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto walking away from closed kitchen door

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto closing door and locking Bob Newhart outside animated gif

Later Bob is lying on the couch feeling miserable with his daughter Trisha (Cynthia Stevenson) trying to comfort him. Otto jumps up on his chest and Trisha cooes, noting how Otto always seems to know when Bob is sick. Bob asks Trisha to remove Otto because “He hurts!”

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto on Bob Newhart's chest with Trisha Cynthia Stevenson

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto on Bob Newhart's chest with Trisha Cynthia Stevenson

Bob - La Sorpresa - cat Otto climbs on Bob Newhart's chest with Trisha Cynthia Stevenson animated gif

Final Mewsings: Cats can play pranks on us but still love us.

Many thanks to Stevie Holcomb for letting us know about Otto in this series!


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