Movie Review: Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye

Posted: September 7, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
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Cat’s Eye (1985 DEG Dir. Lewis Teague)

Around the time Stephen King was getting ready to make Maximum Overdrive, The De Laurentiis Entertainment Group was making another King movie. This one was, as far as I can tell, the second of three movies that De Laurentiis and King would make together. The first being Firestarter and the last being Maximum Overdrive. Like Firestarter, this also has Drew Barrymore in it and like the other two films it was shot in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. It’s also directed by the man who directed Cujo, so there is a strong contingent of King Veterans in this movie. It contains two stories from Nightshift and a story that, again as far as I can tell, was just written for the screenplay for this movie.

Final… Solution?

The movie has a frame story, where our hero the cat, played by what looks to be about twelve different cats, has to get to Drew Barrymore. It starts in North Carolina, where the cat gets accidentally transported to “New York City” being played by an are of Wilmington and looking about as New Yorkish as Kuala Lumpur. The cat sees a phantom Drew Barrymore in a window telling him to get his butt back home before he’s snatched up and put in a cat carrier. This leads us to the first story, which is a pretty straight forward adaptation of Quitters Inc. While the basic idea of the story is sort of horrifying, and you could get a good scare out of it, much of this movie is rather light hearted and gives a few moments for laughs. Some of the light heartedness is in the form of refrences to other King works. Cujo, Christine and The Dead Zone are all referenced at one time or another.

Just look at that face.

One of the first moments for laughs in this story comes right before one of the first moments of real tension. Alan King asks James Woods for his pack of cigarettes and then proceeds to smash them up on the desk while shouting. This is the comedic bit, the bad bit comes right after that. In order to demonstrate an electrified room, the cat from earlier is shocked a bit to make a point about the electrified room. In the story, the room is explained as an aversion therapy tool, using a rabbit instead of a cat. Woods is told if he smokes, his wife will be put in the room and she’ll get the shock treatment. He then explains that even worse things will happen if he slips up a second time and then a third. One almost has to be reminded that the story was written in the late 70s and this movie was made in the mid 80s, when smoking was still a regular thing but was becoming a way for society to mark out its pariahs. While it was still accepted behavior, it was becoming unacceptable. These days, the question of smoking is entirely different.

And now a special message, just for you, the one cat watching.

This is still and effective story however, because we can still identify with the basic scares of paranoia the story still works. Interesting point, Drew Barrymore plays James Wood’s daughter in this story. She’s only in the one scene as far as I know, but she’s there. There is also a cover version of “Every Breath You Take” which is used several times in the movie. Mostly in this section it’s used to drive home the idea that whatever James Woods does, Alan King and company will be watching him. And watch him they do, since as soon as James Woods lights up a cigarette, he notices someone watching and rushes home to find that his wife has been grabbed. He rushes to Alan King’s office, and find his wife in the electrified room. A struggle ensues, during which the cat gets away and the thug who grabbed Woods’ wife actually says “Oh fiddly sticks!” as the cat rushes out of the room.


Besides that though, the story goes on as it should. The wife gets shocked for a few moments. Interestingly, the wife doesn’t mind too much when it’s all explained to her. She’d rather her husband not smoke and she agrees to take the risk. We’re then shown the end of the story where Alan Kin tells James Woods if he doesn’t drop eight pounds, he’ll send a guy over to cut his wife’s pinky off. The segment ends with James Woods and the guy who told him about Quitters Inc having dinner, and discovers that half of the other guy’s wife’s pinky is missing. The shot then fades out and we reenter the frame where the cat seems to be getting to Atlantic City.

I dunno, something funny.

Once again Drew Barrymore is guiding the cat, this time by being the star of a cat food commercial. Half way through the commercial, the phantom Drew then steps forward and talk to the cat, who looks both perplexed and flummoxed. Then the cat crosses the street while a couple of guys bet on whether or not it’ll make it. There is actually a car crash and slow motion effect attached to this scene. That’s awesome in ways I can hardly begin to describe. That leads us into, The Ledge, which is a story about Robert Hays trying to get around the ledge of a building as part of a wager with the gangster husband of his lover.

Look at the KITTY!

The Ledge is pretty straightforward and hard to describe without becoming obsessive about the tiny and unimportant details. Robert Hays struggles to get around the building without falling, and the gangster husband tries to knock him off. Pigeons peck his legs, the gangster sprays him with a hose, and it’s a pretty horrible situation. The cat gets out onto the building and watches him, because we have to be reminded that the cat is in this movie. Hays does get to the other side though, only to discover that the gangster has killed his wife and given Robert Hays her head in a bag with some money. Hays takes less kindly to this than might have been expected. In fact, he starts to beat people up. With the help of the cat, he gets the bodyguard’s gun, shoots the guard and forces the gangster husband out on the ledge, where he promptly falls to his death. While the humans are otherwise occupied, the cat leaves to go find Drew Barrymore.


This gets us to The General, which is original for this movie. Now, The General is my favorite part of this movie. I won’t go into really heavy detail, but the cat gets back to Wilmington and finally gets to Drew Barrymore. Now, Drew loves the cat, naming it General. The mother doesn’t like the cat and tries to keep it out of the house. What I find interesting is that the mother is the unsympathetic person in this story. Usually they have the father being the dick in situations like this, but this time it’s the mother. I just find it interesting whenever a movie decides to avoid the regular prejudice and decides to make the mother a complete bitch about the cat. However, she’s a bitch about the cat because her mother keeps calling on the phone and telling her that cats steal little kids breath. It’s not the cat though, as we find out fairly quickly.

Evil troll is evil.

See, there’s this troll, and the troll steals Drew’s breath while she’s asleep. The little troll is really cool, and set he’s asked to run around on is pretty well scaled. Normally when you get miniatures like this, the chair is on a different scale than the bed, and it just looks wrong. In this though, the scale work is done right and looks really good. The troll even goes so far as to murder Drew’s little birdie in order to frame General. Sadly, the mother decides that General is a murderer and sends him off to the pound to be destroyed. This causes some trouble as the troll is going to kill Drew the next time he shows up and we know it. Fortunately, the cat escapes at the last minute and saves the day.

Wow, kitty kicks ass.

The fight between the cat and the troll is just about the coolest thing you’ve seen all day. The cat leaping up to the closed window and then having to come down the chimney, the knife wielding troll attacking, the two of them kung-fu fighting around the little girl’s room and of course the finally. The troll is thrown onto a record player, and General turns up the speed of the record player, until the troll is sent flying across the room and splatters in the blades of a fan. As cool as all that sounds, I’m really selling this short and not making it sound nearly as awesome as it really is in the movie.

Scream louder if you wanna go faster.

Now of course, after the parents break into the room and Drew explains everything. She then tells the mother that she won’t tell all her friends about the insanity she just witnessed if she can keep General. Her mother complains that it’s blackmail, but she has to acquiesce to the demands of her daughter because General DID save the day and everything. Also, you’ve got to have a happy ending and General winning is the way to have that happy ending. Either way, the movie is great and I really like it. I prefer the last story though and it’s not unheard of for me to just watch that segment and skip the other two. Maybe King should write a full feature film around that last story and remake The General as a full feature. Maybe not though, it might spoil the short and fun nature to expand it out. You should totally get this!

Astonished girl is astonished.

Official Score:
58 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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