A trio of creepy-funny tales are connected by a stray cat who travels from Manhattan, New York, to Wilmington, North Carolina, in search of a little girl (Drew Barrymore, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) who appears to be in grave danger.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Through the eye of the cat, a twisted tail of macabre suspense.” — movie tagline
It was during the ’80s that Hollywood’s relationship with author Stephen King became official: King movies kept coming, one after another. Some adaptations were great (The Dead Zone and Stand by Me), others were disappointing (Children of the Corn and Firestarter). Good but not great, Cat’s Eye sits comfortably in the middle of the pack — written by King himself, it’s a fun anthology laced with morbid humor.
The first segment, “Quitters, Inc.” (approx. 30 min.), tells the story of a nicotine addict, Dick Morrison (James Woods, Oliver Stone’s Salvador), who on the advice of a close friend, decides to join a rehab facility aptly named “Quitters Inc.” Morrison soon discovers why the clinic is so successful at helping people kick the habit.
Based on a short story from King’s 1978 book Night Shift, the deliciously mean-spirited “Quitters, Inc.” is a one-joke tale with a memorable punch line. The always intense and panicky Woods is excellent as the compulsive smoker (apart from Bette Davis, no one projects anxiety as well as Woods). The late comedian Alan King (Just Tell Me What You Want) is hilariously Machiavellian as the clinic’s overly-dedicated director.
Next is “The Ledge” (approx. 25 min.), which takes place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where ex-tennis pro and gambler Johnny Norris (Robert Hays, Airplane) makes the fatal mistake of falling in love with the wife of a powerful kingpin (Kenneth McMillan, Ragtime). The bitter mafioso forces Norris to accept a deadly bet.
Like “Quitters, Inc.,” this an adaptation of a short story from King’s Night Shift. In a rare dramatic role, Hays is believable as the desperate man who agrees to one crazy bet. McMillan, however, steals the show as the nasty gangster with a personal vendetta against his wife’s lover. Some visual effects show their age, but this is a suspenseful and kind of funny story — the ornery pigeon made me laugh — with a great twist at the end.
The last tale, “General” (approx. 30 min.), is the only one King wrote directly for the screen. It’s also my favorite episode. The story is about a young girl, Amanda (Drew Barrymore), who adopts the title’s cat and names him “General.” The fierce tabby helps Amanda battle an evil troll that has been tormenting her.
The practical effects are wonderful. Okay, the matte paintings aren’t perfect, and you can see the cables on several occasions, but who cares? Italian special effects artist Carol Rambild’s (Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) creature looks great, the sets are impressive, little Drew is irresistible and the tabby’s superb “performance” would have made Marlon Brando blush with envy. Candy Clark (American Graffiti) and James Naughton (The Paper Chase) play Barrymore’s parents.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo), Cat’s Eye is the kind of movie I’ve learned to appreciate over multiple viewings. I have to admit that the first time I watched it, I was a little disappointed that it was more funny than scary. Now I know better: Cat’s Eye perfectly captures Stephen King’s outrageous sense of humor. Plus, it’s a great movie for cat lovers! Photographed by legendary cameraman Jack Cardiff (Black Narcissus). The music score is by Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future). Color, 94 minutes, Rated PG-13.