Cat’s Eye

The pre-CGI era really makes you think.

Take Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye for example. There is very little post-production. If you see it, it was done in front of a camera, which means that the feline protagonist that guides us through a series of three stories is actually imperiled throughout this movie. First he's chased by Cujo, then he’s nabbed and put in a room with an electrified floor.

Cut to Mr. Dick Morrison (James Woods) arriving at the waiting room of “Quitter’s Inc.”, where our hero, let’s call him General, is being held.

Dr. Vinny Donatti  (Alan King) demonstrates the nasty room on our four-legged friend for Mr. Morrison. I’m not exactly a member of PETA, but really? Donatti claims that in order to get Morrison to quit smoking, they’ll put his wife in the electrocution chamber, and each time he smokes something else bad will happen to his family.

So. . . how does this work if you’re single?

But this isn’t about the people! It’s about General! Some bad things happen to the Morrisons, but the cat escapes the lab and finds his way to Atlantic City and crosses paths with Cressner, a gangster who bets on anything. He’s played by Kenneth McMillan, yes, Baron Vladimir Harkonen himself.

Cressner makes a wager that ex-tennis pro (the weirdly ageless Robert Hays) can’t walk around the ledge of his high-rise penthouse. The hero cat finds the whole affair distasteful, but just watches with an expression that’s between bemused and concerned on his feline face.
The Tennis Pro gets the upper hand and makes Cressner walk around the building. He plunges to his doom, so our hero cat begins hitchhiking again to Wilmington, North Carolina, where Drew Barrymore has been psychically beckoning him the whole movie.

Barrymore names him General officially, and her mom hates him immediately-but that's because she doesn’t understand that the brave General is here to save her daughter from a breath-stealing goblin. This part of the movie drags on, because we’re ready for the big showdown. But first, said goblin kills the family parakeet (presumably through some sort of sexual assault judging from the awful laughter) and very nearly gets Barrymore.

General is, of course, not havin’ it, and frightens the beast off.

Barrymore’s mom, of course, blames the cat based on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence and ships General off to another lab where he’s marked for termination. He triumphantly escapes to the pulsing electronic score provided by Alan Silvestri, and even as he hauls ass through traffic and a thunder storm, the goblin is fast approaching. Hurling himself down the chimney, General arrives in the nick of time, ready for an epic battle of good and evil!

Cat Vs. Goblin

General wins and the Barrymore family learns a valuable lesson: when a random animal wanders into your house, assume it’s there to protect your child from supernatural monsters.

This movie’s pretty great, overall. It’s got just the right amount of 80’s cheese, and since our main character doesn’t speak a whole lot of English, half of the humor is in the cat thinking what fools these humans be.

Q: The Winged Serpent

There’s so much in this movie that I don’t know quite where to start.  Let’s start with the basics: worshipers of the ancient, Aztec god Quetzalcoatl , have been performing sacrifices and as a result have brought “Q” back to life.  Q is a 40-foot-long winged serpent that has set up shop in the Chrysler building and uses the New York skyline as her own buffet.  The NYPD had their hands full between investigating the ritual murders before heads, arms, and blood start raining from the sky.

Starring as our stalwart police detectives are none other than David “Kwai Chang Caine” Carradine and Richard “Shaft” Roundtree.  What’s more, they are playing pre-Giuliani New York police detectives, so not only are they jaded, not only are they underpaid and grouchy, but they (and the city as a whole) look completely rumpled and dirty.

Part of what makes this film-and the majority of director Larry Cohen’s pictures-so fascinating, is how Cohen presents ludicrous events and how something very closely resembling the real world would react to them.  There are no secret agents, clandestine government agencies, covert religious sects or chosen saviors in the film.  There is only an over-worked and incredulous police force.  There is a gigantic flying lizard literally picking people off of rooftops and all Carradine can do is research the ritual killings, interview history professors, and put together a theory that just happens to be correct, no matter how insane it appears.  When Carradine and company finally do track down Q, the assault on the bird feels more like a police raid than a climactic battle between man and the wrath of nature.  But, that is exactly what makes the film so interesting.  Well, that and Michael Moriarty.

Older readers will remember Moriarty as the original ADA on Law & Order back before Sam Waterson (my favorite of Jim Henson’s Muppets) took over.  Q began a long working relationship between he and Cohen which included The Stuff and Cohen’s episode of the Showtime's horror anthology series Masters of Horror: “Pick Me Up.” Moriarty plays Jimmy Quinn, the greatest asshole ever.  Mere words cannot do justice to hope thoroughly and exquisitely annoying Jimmy Quinn is.  You have to imagine the dread combination of Veruca Salt , Walter PeckEllis Carver, Carter Burke, Biff Tannen, and Chet Donnelly… exposed to gamma rays.  Quinn is a former addict/full-time loser who happens upon Q’s nest and uses the information to extort money from the city of New York.  Along the way, he will push every single button in your soul until you wish you were the man with knife at his throat.  I honestly do not know why Moriarty was not nominated for such a performance.

If that is not enough, be sure to keep an eye out for some of the greatest reaction shots from the cheapest New York local actors.  It’s a wonderful combination of bad acting and imitation Ray Harryhausen special effects.  And, remember, body parts falling from the sky!