Lewis Teague’s anthology of Stephen King stories was considered one of the less serious adaptations of the horror-master’s work back in 1985; it’s hardly cut from the same cloth as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and maybe that’s the way King wanted it. But King’s writing has never gone out of fashion, and although the recent Firestarter was the dampest of damp squibs, a blu-ray re-release of Cat’s Eye reveals a smart, if deliberately pulpy sets of unpretentious stories that engage the interest, even if outright terror is some way away.
We start with a neat little framing sequence that pre-dates the Stephen King metaverse of the tv show Castle Rock; we see a tabby cat on the run, running into various King characters, including Christine the killer car and Cujo the killer dog, then hitchhiking to NYC to play a bit part in the first story. We then settle down to Quitters Inc, in which smoker Dick Morrison (James Woods) runs afoul of a sinister organisation of the same name. The methods used to stop their customers smoking are barbaric, and Morrison soon realises that whatever he does, there’s unlikely to be any escape from their clutches. The pay-off is familiar from the classic twist story The Man from The South, but King slyly repurposes it as a punchline to a neat conspiracy piece tinged with satirical black humour.
The cat then heads to New Jersey and Atlantic City for the second story The Ledge, which sees adulterer Johnny Norris (Robert Hays) fall victim to rich sadist Cressner (Kenneth McMillian), who punishes the younger man by forcing a wager on him; Norris must make his way around the ledge surrounding his penthouse suite, with steep falls on all sides, and Teague does a good job maintaining the tension here. In the final story, the cat, now identified by the title General, steps in to save a little girl (Drew Barrymore) from a deadly troll which emerges from a hole in the bedroom wall; this is a simple, silly story that heavily recalls the Trilogy of Terror tv movie in which Karen Black was similarly terrorised by a tiny voodoo doll.
Cat’s Eye may not have much to offer in terms of thematic strength, but it’s got excellent production values, Jack Cardiff photography, a game cast, and plenty of clever nods to the baroque style that has made King a publishing and cinematic phenomena. There’s an amusing documentary included in the blu-ray package called “Like Herding Cats’ which reflects on the tricky production problem of having a cat to interlink the stories, but even the moggies involved all turn in uniformly good performances. This is a surprisingly breezy little portmanteau of King’s minor works; it’s worth seeing for completists, but even casual viewers should dig the willingness of King and Teague to entertain. Bonus song at the end of this review!
SPECIAL FEATURES available on Ultra HD, Blu-Ray and DVD
- NEW Interview with Director Lewis Teague
- Audio Commentary with Lewis Teague
- Johnny Norris on the Edge: Robert Hays Remembers Cat’s Eye
- “Like Herding Cats”: A Conversation with Animal Trainer Teresa Ann Miller
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Thanks to Studio Canal for access. In the UK, Cat’s Eye is available on Ultra HD™, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital from 23rd May 2022