In 1977, legendary Amicus co-founder Milton Subotsky joined with Canadian producer Claude Héroux (Scanners, Videodrome) to create a portmanteau movie in the grand Amicus style. The uniting story for this concerns a paranoid writer played by Peter Cushing who is trying to convince a publisher (Ray Milland) that cats are evil and that his book is the only way to save the human race.
Directed by Denis Héroux (Naked Massacre, Valerie) from a screenplay by Michel Parry (Xtro), this is a film that I’ve neglected over the past few years and can happily say lived up to my hopes for a fun anthology film.
The film begins the Montreal of 1977, as writer Wilbur Gray (Cushing) visits publisher Frank Richards(Milland) to discuss his new book. The writer is convinced that cats are actually Satanic creatures here to destroy humanity. He tells three stories to explain:
r believes that felines are supernatural creatures, and that they are the devil in disguise. Wilbur tells three tales to illustrate his thoughts:
London 1912: Miss Malkin rewrtes her will, leaving everything to her cats instead of her ne’er do well nephew Michael. The maid Janet, who is in love with Michael, tries to steal the will, but Miss Malkin catches her. Janet kills her, but the cats avenge her death.
Quebec 1975: Lucy (Katrina Holden Bronson, the adopted daughter of Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland) is an orphan who now lives with her aunt Mrs. Blake (Alexandra Stewart, who is also in Because of the Cats, which is appropriate). Her parents have died in a plane crash so she is allowed to keep her cat Wellington, who is an awesome fat black cat. However, her cousin covets the cat and any attention she can get. She’s played by Chloe Franks, who was the go to young girl in horror for this era, with appearances in Trog, The House That Dripped Blood (she’s Christoper Lee’s daughter), Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? and Tales from the Crypt (she’s Joan Crawford’s daughter). This section combines two of my horror loves — evil kids and Satanic hijinks.
Hollywood 1936: Actor Valentine De’ath (Donald Pleasence) replaces the blade of a fake pendulum to kill his actress wife, which gives him the opening he needs to give his young mistress a chance at acting. He didn’t count on her cat avenging her. This chapter features Samantha Eggar (Demonoid, Welcome to Blood City), Sean McCann (Starship Invasions) and the always awesome John Vernon (Curtains, National Lampoon’s Animal House).
This story has one of my favorite movie tropes, as when Cushing discusses Pleasence’s character, he holds up a photo that is in truth a publicity still of the actor as Blofeld and his cat Tiddes from You Only Live Twice.
For all the cat love in this, cinematographer Harry Waxman (The Wicker Man, The Beast In the Cellar) threatened to leave the film when he felt that the production was abusing cats.
That said — this is pretty much everything you want from an anthology. Modern filmmakers littering on demand services with their short films all assembled into one movie should take a moment and watch this to see how it’s done.