DirectorDavid Lowell Rich
Release Date(s)1969 (January 16, 2018)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C+
Having the feel of an “animals attack” type of exploitation film, but through a major studio system, Eye of the Cat is an obscure horror oddity that’s been difficult to see for many years. The film stars Michael Sarrazin as Wylie and Gayle Hunnicut as Kassia, a pair of mismatched lovers who are plotting to kill Wylie’s wealthy but unhealthy Aunt Danny (Eleanor Parker). Unfortunately for Wylie, he suffers from Ailurophobia, a fear of cats, and his aunt has many of them. Whether he and his new girlfriend can carry out their plan or not all depends on them getting rid of the cats, which is not going to be easy.
Directed by David Lowell Rich, who had helmed the Three Stooges film Have Rocket, Will Travel a decade earlier and later went on to make many made-for-TV movies, Eye of the Cat is an unusual film for its time. Written by Joseph Stefano, who also wrote the screenplay for Psycho, and featuring an off the wall horror score by Lalo Schifrin, the film’s material was certainly treated with some dignity. It’s almost a bloodless film with only one kill in it, relying more on the plot of securing money away from the wealthy aunt rather than focusing more time on the cats, which are out of the film for most of its running time. There are some good suspenseful elements and the performances are strong once the film’s climax is underway, making for an enjoyable thriller.
Scarcely available on home video during the VHS era and never, ever released on DVD, Eye of the Cat makes its long-overdue debut thanks to the folks at Scream Factory. Its presentation is taken from what is described as a “new HD film transfer taken from original film elements.” To be honest, any release of the film on Blu-ray was going to look better than any bootlegs of it that have been floating around for years. That said, this is a mostly excellent presentation. The film uses a number of different opticals during its opening credit sequence, causing much softness, but things become much crisper and sharper afterwards. Grain levels are well-resolved and detail is high with deep blacks and excellent brightness and contrast. The color palette isn’t all that bold, but it’s nowhere near anemic either. Skin tones are a bit too orange in many scenes, but many other colors have better representation. It’s also a clean transfer with only mild speckling leftover. Whether it contains any DNR passes I couldn’t tell, but it appears film-like all things considered. The sole audio option is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH. While not a true stereo track, it still manages to have quite a bit of bite, particularly with the score which is the most effective aspect of it. Dialogue is clean and clear and sound effects have some occasional lift, particularly during moments when the cats begin to get angry. There’s also no leftover hiss, crackle, or dropouts to be concerned with either.
The extras selection doesn’t include any support from anybody involved with the production, but what you do get is the full screen TV broadcast version of the film in standard definition, which is how many people saw the film originally. It includes a few alternate scenes to make up for any nudity or bloodshed, as well as a couple of extra scenes, a slightly alternate ending, and other various trims, including the bit about possible implied incest. The difference in running times is only about a couple of minutes. In addition, there’s also an animated photo gallery, a radio spot, and the film’s original theatrical trailer presented in HD, but from a low grade source.
Eye of the Cat turned out to be a welcome surprise. After years of hearing folks like Brian Collins from the “Horror Movie a Day” movie blog talk about the film, it’s nice to finally have a proper home video release of it. Scream Factory’s efforts on this title are to be highly commended as they’ve saved yet another obscure film from the depths of many a film vault. For genre fans, this one should be a no-brainer.
- Tim Salmons