Three tales of terror by the master of modern horror.
It's time once again for Judge Patrick's time warp spectacular! Let's go way back to the early 1980s! Back when Stephen King's popularity was at an all time high. With novels like "Christine" and "Carrie" on the bestsellers list, King could do no wrong in readers' eyes. While a few of his novels had been adapted to the screen, King himself had yet to pen a screenplay—that is, until 1985's chiller Stephen King's Cat's Eye. The film featured three King stories woven around the misadventures of a tabby cat and the twisted world he encounters. Starring James Woods (Ghosts of Mississippi, John Carpenter's Vampires), Drew Barrymore (Charlie's Angels), Alan King (Memories of Me), and Robert Hayes (Airplane!, Airplane II: The Sequel), Stephen King's Cat's Eye makes its way to DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Stephen King's Cat's Eye features three separate stories scripted by the master of the macabre. The first story, "Quitter's Inc.," stars James Woods as Richard Morrison, a father and husband who is trying to kick that old nicotine habit. When Richard takes a trip to the offices of Quitters Inc., he finds more than he bargained for in the form of boss man Mr. Donatti (King, Alan not Steve). To say that Donatti has some radical ideas about helping folks quit smoking is an understatement—instead of chewing gum or patches, Donatti uses brute force! First offense: your wife gets a little "tickle" in Quitters Inc.'s electroshock room. Second offense: someone may rape your wife or child. Third offense…well, you don't want to know. Now lung cancer isn't the only health problem plaguing Richard if he can't kick the habit!
The second story tells the gleeful tale of a voraciously wealthy and mean gambler, Cressner (Kenneth McMillan, David Lynch's Dune), who decides to give retired tennis pro Johnny Norris (Hays) an "offer he can't refuse." While attempting to run off with Cressner's wife and some cash, Johnny is kidnapped and taken to Cressner's towering apartment. On top of the monolith building Cressner gives Johnny a chance to walk away scot free: if he can make it around the building's ledge (which is only a few inches wide), Johnny can go free. However, dangerous gusts of wind, violent pigeons, and Cressner himself stand in Johnny's way. Can he make it around the building? Or will he literally fall to pieces?
The final story involves Drew Barrymore as a little girl with an even smaller (yet dangerous) problem: a vicious troll living inside the house's wall. At night the troll makes the rounds, creating a general mess of things and attempting to steal the breath of Miss Barrymore. When our old feline friend (affectionately known as "The General") shows up to save the day, it will be a mano-a-mano showdown between the heroic cat and the devilish little monstrosity!
It's nice to know that even one of the world's most popular writers can churn out unabashed schlock. Sure, Cat's Eye may be entertaining schlock, but it's schlock nonetheless. Of all the King short story film adaptations (including Creepshow, The Mangler, Creepshow 2, and Graveyard Shift), Cat's Eye is probably the least enticing for horror fans. Slapped with a PG-13 rating and only a few true gore effects, this flick is neither a true horror movie nor a very good stab at thrilling drama.
The middle story about the gambler and the tennis pro fares the best (it's also notable to mention that the first two stories are from King's book "Night Shift," while the third story was written specifically for this film). It's a simple, straightforward tale of revenge and chills, a terror ride that's as taut as anything King has put on the page. I don't want to spoil anything for the viewer, so I'll just say that Cat's Eye is worth the rental for that story alone. Director Lewis Teague (who also helmed King's cinematic adaptation Cujo) does a fantastic job of wringing tension out of the audience from what is really just a simple idea executed well. While some of the special effects look dated (a horn falling from a building looks cheap and matted), the bulk of this tale is really a lot of fun.
The "Quitters Inc." story is also very good, punctuated by James Woods' and Alan King's performances. Those who have ever tried to stop smoking will get a kick out of this story—when Woods finally sees what he's in for in the form of thuggish manipulation, it's acting at its finest (well, for a Stephen King movie at least…). Both of these tales work well because they don't have anything to do with possessed cars or drooling monsters—each story feeds on real fears, and as such make for satisfying yarns.
Then we get to the last story involving Drew Barrymore, the title cat, and a little troll that looks like a brown Smurf who decided to down a bottle of Drano. This story completely collapses upon itself—it's silly, stupid, and filled with a lot of hokey action between the cat and the troll (and by my best estimate the troll's gory demise is what prompted the MPAA to give this film its PG-13 rating). It's hard to fathom that this last segment was written by King—there's no structure or true explanation for the troll. He just shows up, acts mean, and gets his just dessert. It's not horrible, just pointless.
Overall I enjoyed this film, though that last story really had my eyes rolling overtime. I miss the '80s—back in those days when you went to see a Stephen King based film, you knew you were in for a horror treat (some more tasty than others). These days, cinema screens are mostly filled with sappy King stories about human drama. Uggh. Where's a severed eyeball when you need it? [Editor's Note: Hey, it was kinda gross seeing that guy fried in the electric chair in The Green Mile…]
Oh, and a small note to Hollywood: if you're going to make a Stephen King movie, just go balls out and MAKE a rated-R Stephen King movie.
Fun Fact: King fans will delight in a plethora of in-jokes from the author's previous book/movie efforts. The keen eye will spot a TV showing the film The Dead Zone, a dog that looks conspicuously like Cujo, and a car that sports a rear bumper sticker reading "Watch out for me, I am pure evil. I am Christine!"
Cat's Eye is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner usually does a great job on their transfers, though I'm sad to report that I was a bit disappointed with the way this image came out. There's a noticeable amount of dirt and scratches running through this print, and while the colors and black levels are all fairly solid and bright, overall this isn't a sharp or illustrious image. For normal viewers and one time renters this DVD will do fine—for hardcore fans, it's going to be a bit of a disappointment.
The soundtrack is presented in 2.0 surround in English and is, not surprisingly, pretty weak. Cat's Eye actually may have benefited from a new 5.1 mix—as it stands, this is a mediocre audio track that features little in the way of surround sounds or directional effects. The good news is that the mix is clear of any excessive hiss or distortion. The bad news is that it's flat, boring, and very dull. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Surprisingly, Warner has tossed off one biggie supplement for Cat's Eye fans: a commentary by director Lewis Teague. Teague is a genial enough guy who has a few interesting stories to share about the film's production (including some discussion about an expanded story about the cat that was cut out altogether). This isn't the most exciting commentary ever recorded, though fans will certainly be happy to see it included on this disc.
Also included on this disc is the requisite theatrical trailer for the film, as well as a short list of cast and crew film highlights.
The first two stories are a lot of fun, while the second one is only mediocre. Stephen King completists will want this disc for their collection—for the rest of us, it's at least worth a Friday night rental. Warner has done a decent job on this title, though it's far from being one of their best transfers.
2/3 of this disc is found innocent on all charges. The last 1/3 is found guilty of being utterly silly. Case dismissed!
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary Track by Director Lewis Teague
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.