Air Date: Dec. 11, 1973 (ABC)
Production Companies: Douglas S. Cramer Company, Screen Gems Television
Running Time: 72 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Robert Bloch
Story by: Douglas S. Cramer & Wilford Lloyd Baumes and Robert Bloch
Directed by: Curtis Harrington
Cast: Meredith Baxter, David Hedison, Gale Sondergaard, John Carradine, Renne Jarrett, Keye Luke, Kent Smith, Stuart Whitman, Milton Parsons, Peter Loirre Jr., John Abbott
This one is a real treat! The Cat Creature (1973) is a good, old-fashioned monster movie that incorporates the subtlety of Val Lewton into a 1970’s twist on The Mummy. It’s so full of classic horror cred, that I’ve got to create a list:
Written by Robert Bloch (Psycho, The Skull, Asylum)
Directed by Curtis Harrington (Night Tide, Queen of Blood, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo)
Starring David Hedison (The Fly-1958, The Lost World-1960, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea-TV)
Starring Gale Sondergaard (The Cat & the Canary-1939, The Black Cat-1941, The Invisible Man’s Revenge-1944)
Starring Stuart Whitman (Shock Treatment, Night of the Lepus)
Featuring Kent Smith (Cat People, The Spiral Staircase, The Invaders-TV)
Featuring Keye Luke (Charlie Chan films of the 1930s)
Cameo by John Carradine (too many to list)
Cameo by Milton Parsons (uncredited in Hold That Ghost, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde-1941, Cry of the Werewolf)
Cameo by Peter Lorre Jr. (no relation to Peter Lorre; but, that name)
Cameo by John Abbott (Cry of the Werewolf, The Vampire’s Ghost, The Web)
Cameo by Virgin Frye (Queen of Blood, Nightmare in Wax, Garden of the Dead)
This alone is enough to make any monster kid’s heart sing. However, add a simple, but intriguing story with a nice twist, and you have an entertaining throwback to the Classic Age of horror.
The Cat Creature opens with Frank Lucas (Smith) arriving at an old dark house to continue his inventory appraisal of the recently deceased Hiram Drake. He’s completed the first two floors and begins to examine the “secret collection” on which he spent so much money. It’s a huge room full of Egyptian artifacts, including a sarcophagus that contains a mummy wearing an amulet with a cat’s head. Lucas has seen a horror movie or two and knows better than to disturb the mummy. However, a thief, Joe Sung (Luke) has not. He steals the amulet and tries to sell it to…
…Hester Black (Sondergaard), the proprietor of The Sorcerer’s Shop. Hester has also seen a horror movie or two and runs Sung out of the store. Meanwhile, she’s concerned about her salesperson, Sherry Hastings (Renne Jarrett) walking home alone at night. Hastings responds, “Don’t worry; three blocks won’t kill me.” Maybe not, but on her way home, she picks up a stray cat and takes it with her. Just as soon as she discovers blood on its fur, its green eyes sparkle, and she throws herself over the balcony.
Thus begins a mystery involving Lt. Marco (Whitman) and Professor Roger Edmonds (Hedison) as they discover claw marks on the sarcophagus lid and animal marks on Lucas’s throat. When the autopsy report arrives, they further learn that the throat marks are from teeth and claws, and that there were cat hairs on the body. Edmonds finds the symbol of Bast, the cat goddess, and a series of murders continues that they eventually attribute to “a cat that hypnotizes and kills.” Late in the film, they learn that the amulet was made “to hold something captive.”
Into the mix we add Rena Carter (Meredith Baxter), the young woman who enters The Sorcerer’s Shop when she sees a Help Wanted sign on the door… because, you remember, Sherry Hastings took a leap off her balcony. The road they’re investigating eventually leads Marco and Edmonds to the shop where they suspect Hester Black and Edmonds is quickly smitten with Carter. After taking her to dinner the first day they meet, Edmonds is certain she needs to be protected and it does indeed seem like she’s going to be the next victim of… the cat creature.
Bloch’s teleplay contains hints of related backstory that enrich The Cat Creature and add depth to its characters. For example, Marco seems to have a history with Hester Black. We don’t know what that is, but we’d sure like to see it in a prequel adventure featuring the two. Harrington’s direction includes long, winding staircases and dark, shadowy alleys. Characters slowly climb them or wander through them, as unsure as we are whether something is going to jump out to scare them, or worse.
I don’t recall if I first saw The Cat Creature when it originally aired; however, my first adult viewing was in late 2011. I wasn’t impressed and assigned it only an average rating on my IMDb list. My appreciation for classic horror has definitely grown in the last decade and after watching it again recently, I rated it three stars higher. I can’t not enjoy this movie, especially when I admire the list of “connections” above. These personalities aren’t just there for show; they indicate the love of the genre present in every aspect of The Cat Creature.
Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch The Cat Creature as well as all the great movies from this series...