“Cat’s Eye” begins with a nod to Stephen King fans. During the opening minutes, Cujo is shown chasing a cat, and Christine is being driven.. Apart from the presence of Cujo, the cat serves an important purpose in the film. He will eventually be called ‘General’ when he makes his way to North Carolina to a little girl named Amanda, who needs his help. The girl is played by Golden Globe winner Drew Barrymore (Grey Gardens). She appears in visions to General, a few times throughout the film, before he reaches her. The lack of explanation for General, should be the only point of confusion for first time viewers of an otherwise very good, anthology horror film. Originally, the filmmakers wanted to include a prologue in the movie which explained General’s presence, and the fact that he was no ordinary cat. The studio executives wanted the scene cut from the film, stating that they felt it was too corny.
In the first story, two time Emmy winner James Woods (My Name is Bill W) portrays Dick Morrison. He is addicted to cigarettes. The man seemingly can’t go five minutes without one. Morrison is intelligent enough to know that smoking is bad for his health. He also wants to spare his wife and daughter from the harmful side effects that his smoking causes. One day after work, he goes to an appointment at Quitters, Inc. Once there, he meets with Dr. Donatti, a role acted by Alan King (Casino).
Dr. Donatti informs Morrison that he will be watched all of the time. The doctor makes it clear to Morrison, that he might see some of the people who are watching him, but he will never see all of them. If Morrison smokes, there will be punishments. Each time Morrison commits an infraction, the punishments will get more severe. As an example, Morrison is shown what the first punishment will be. Junk (Tony Munafo), one of Dr. Donatti’s hired muscle, happened to capture ‘General’ on the sidewalk, prior to Morrison’s appointment. The cat is placed inside a cell, and for the next minute or so, is given electric shocks that emanate from the floor. Morrison is horrified, so much so, that when he returns home that evening, he comments to his wife, that he hasn’t smoked for six hours. The more time that passes, however, the more Morrison craves nicotine. How long will he be able to hold out? If he does smoke, how many infractions will he incur?
The second story “The Ledge” centers around a most unusual wager. Mr. Cressner, played by Kenneth McMillan (Blue Skies Again), is a wealthy, crime boss residing in Atlantic City, who loves to gamble. In fact, at the start of the story, he bets a fellow gambler, that General, who has escaped from the offices of Quitters Inc., can make it across the street, even though there is a steady flow of oncoming traffic. While Cressner wins the bet, that particular evening, he has a bigger gamble in mind.
His wife, Sally Ann, a part acted by Oscar nominee Candy Clark (American Graffiti) has been having an affair with Johnny Norris, her tennis coach. The part of Norris is played by Robert Hays (Airplane). The two are planning to run away together. While Norris makes sure Sally Ann gets on a bus headed out of town, he needs to stay until the morning to clear out his bank account. Ducky (Mike Starr), one of Cressner’s goons, knocks Norris out, and takes him to Cressner’s penthouse apartment.
Cressner offers Norris a way out of his predicament. If he can walk outside around the ledge of the penthouse, and make it back inside, Cressner will let him leave. He will not only let him leave, but he can go with Sally Ann. If Norris refuses, there will be consequences that extend beyond a quick death by gunshot. Does Norris make it? Will one false step lead to his demise?
In the final of the three stories, General has arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina, and not a moment too soon to help Amanda. She lives with her parents Hugh (James Naughton) and Marcia (Patricia Kalember). Amanda’s mother is not happy with the prospect of a strange cat living in the house. After begging her mother to keep General, Marcia relents. She does insist, however, that he sleep outside the house. Unbeknownst to Marcia, that was a bad idea. Sneaking into Amanda’s room at night is a troll (Daniel Rodgers). He is there to steal her breath, which will ultimately kill her. The clever General, finds a way back into the house, and is able to stop the troll from carrying out its plan that evening. How many more times will the cat be able to save Amanda?
“Cat’s Eye” was directed by Lewis Teague (Alligator). The screenplay was written by Stephen King. Two of the three stories contained within the film, “Quitters, Inc” and “The Ledge” were adapted from “Night Shift,” a collection of King’s short stories that was published by Doubleday in 1978. The third story “General” was written by King for the film. The movie premiered in Canada and the United States on April 12, 1985. Parts comedy, horror, and thriller the film has a runtime of 94 minutes. The music for the film was composed by two time Emmy winner Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future). As of the writing of this post, “Cat’s Eye” is the only horror film that Silvestri has scored during his career. The cinematography by two time Oscar winner Jack Cardiff (Sons and Lovers) was well executed and the scenes transitioned seamlessly from one to the next. (As an aside: The King story “Sometimes They Come Back” was going to be adapted to be part of the movie, but Oscar winning producer Dino De Laurentis (La Strada) felt the story was good enough to get its own feature length adaptation).
I hadn’t seen “Cat’s Eye” in a number of years, before sitting down to watch it last evening. The special effects are certainly a product of the time period, but that should only hamper the enjoyment of the most critical of viewers. Even though I knew what was going to happen during certain parts of “The Ledge” I still found moments to be pulse pounding. The acting as a whole was very good. The music synched up perfectly with what was transpiring on screen. Recommended for Stephen King fans, and those of you who enjoy well done anthology horror films.