The Movie Waffler Re-Release Review - CAT’S EYE | The Movie Waffler

Re-Release Review - CAT’S EYE

Cat's Eye review
Anthology of tales penned by Stephen King.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lewis Teague

Starring: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Robert Hays, Alan King, Candy Clark

Cat's Eye bluray

Though somewhat lost in the mix of Stephen King movies now, 1985's Cat's Eye was a big deal at the time, marking only King's second outing as a screenwriter. 1985 was the time I started reading movie magazines, and the image of the movie's goblin seemed to adorn every sci-fi and horror publication's front cover in the months leading to its release. King wasn't the only draw however. Returning to the King world was director Lewis Teague, who two years earlier had done a fine job adapting the author's Cujo. Drew Barrymore, the breakout young star of ET and King adaptation Firestarter, was given a major role, while the man responsible for creating ET, FX wiz Carlo Rambaldi, was brought on board to create the aforementioned goblin. Add cinematography by the legendary Jack Cardiff and an appearance by then rising star James Woods, and Cat's Eye had much to excite 1980s movie fans.

Also seeing the release of Silver Bullet, 1985 marked the end of the golden era of King horror adaptations. From that point on worthwhile adaptations of King's horror tales would be few and far between, with movies based on his non-supernatural fare (The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, Stand by Me) finding most acclaim. Cat's Eye sees King riding the crest of a wave, adapting two of his own short stories and creating a third from scratch for an anthology loosely connected by the presence of a stray cat.

Cat's Eye review

The moggy first arrives in Manhattan, where it is scooped up off the street by what first appears a benevolent guardian angel. Unfortunately for the animal it's now in the hands of Quitters Inc, a company that uses ruthless tactics to "help" its clients quit smoking. Dick Morrison (Woods) signs up for the programme and is shocked to see the cat subjected to jolts of electricity. If Dick doesn't follow through and kick the habit, he's told his wife and daughter will be subjected to the same torture.

This new 4K restoration of Cat's Eye opens with a disclaimer warning that the film features outdated attitudes. Maybe I'm not as sensitive as others, but I couldn't decipher what this refers to, as racism, sexism or homophobia didn't seem present in any way. I can only assume that it refers to the copious amount of smoking seen in the opening segment. The movie takes a very '80s libertarian attitude to a habit most of us now recognise as having no positive effects, with Quiiters Inc representing the encroaching nanny state, a major talking point at the time. It's fitting that the target of this authoritarianism is played by Woods, given his current political beliefs. Woods is excellent as a man so addicted to nicotine he's willing to risk the lives of his family for a sneaky drag, and Alan King is thoroughly menacing as the sinister head of Quitters Inc (there's something about aging Jewish comics that makes them great at playing villains – see also Don Rickles in Casino and Albert Brooks in Drive). Of the three stories it's the one that works best as a standalone segment, with a payoff straight from EC Comics.

Cat's Eye review

Next we find our feline observer taken in by Atlantic City mobster Cressner (Kenneth McMillan), who abducts his wife's lover, tennis player Johnny Norris (Robert Hays), and offers him a bet. If Johnny can walk around the thin ledge of his high-rise penthouse without falling to his death, he can go free; otherwise the police will be alerted to the stash of heroin planted in the trunk of his car. Johnny accepts the challenge and makes his way cautiously around the building, dodging stray pigeons and Cressner's attempts to knock him off course.

While this segment doesn't fully work as a short in its own right, it does feature a memorably vertigo-inducing set-piece. Even in 4K, the visual effects hold up, with matte paintings beautifully integrated to make us believe Hays really is 50 storeys above the sidewalk. You can see why Cardiff was hired, as four decades earlier he had similarly helped make audiences believe an Indian palace was located high in the Himalayas for Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus.

Cat's Eye review

The movie closes out with its most 1980s segment. Presumably cashing in on the success of Gremlins, the final story sees the cat battling a small goblin intent on stealing the breath of young Amanda (Barrymore). It's a classic tale of disbelieving parents and monsters under the bed, with a clever use of a record player turntable to dispatch its diminutive demon.

The fact that none of its three segments could be described as "filler" puts Cat's Eye in the top tier of horror anthologies. Teague is something of an under-rated director who never got the props of his fellow graduates from the Roger Corman school. Working under Corman gave Teague a keen sense of how to get the most from a small budget. This stands him well with Cat's Eye, a movie that looks far more polished than its relatively minor budget should allow. King devotees should look out for several references to his work peppered throughout.

Cat's Eye
 is on UK bluray, DVD and VOD from May 23rd.