By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: He’s afraid of cats
Wylie (Michael Sarrazin) returns to the home of his rich Aunt Danny (Eleanor Parker) who he hasn’t seen in ages at the urging of his girlfriend Kassia (Gayle Hunnicutt). Kassia has become aware that the aunt is suffering from severe emphysema and must sleep in an oxygen tent at night. She wants Wylie to get back into his aunt’s will and then when he does they will sneak into her bedroom and turn off her oxygen. The problem is that Danny also owns a lot of cats and Wylie suffers from ailurophobia, which is the irrational fear of them and this further complicates the matter.
David Lowell Rich directed mainly TV-movies in his career, but scores for the most part in this rare theatrical attempt. I enjoyed the split screen montage done over the opening credits as well as the bird’s eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The viewer gets a zesty feel of the San Francisco locale and the scene where Aunt Danny’s wheelchair teeters off of a very steep incline is well shot and edited. My only beef is with the inside of Aunt Danny’s mansion, which is basically just sets constructed on a sound stage that is a very clichéd, unimaginative view of a ‘rich person’s house’ that gives the production a kind of cheap and tacky look.
Saarazin again nails it. Usually he plays sensitive leading men, but here does a change of pace as the very amoral and apathetic cad and it works.
Parker is quite good in a latter career role. She was only 46 at the time making her one of the more attractive and sexy wheelchair bound Aunts you will ever see. The fact that she is going to leave her entire fortune to her cats seems whacky, but then after seeing Wylie for the first time in years she decides to immediately change her will and make him the beneficiary seems even crazier. The character could easily be written off as being ridiculously campy, but somehow Parker, who has always has a knack for playing vulnerable people, makes her seem entertaining and even intriguing instead. I enjoyed her strange misplace morality and the fact that she is attracted to the much younger Wylie and even makes a pass at him, which creates for some interesting sexual undertones.
Hunnicutt doesn’t have a lot of lines, but her facial expressions are right on-target for that of a cold and conniving woman. The scene where she has a physical fight with one of Wylie’s former girlfriends (Jennifer Leak) while inside the woman’s bathroom at a bar is fun especially as it is captured from a bird’s-eye vantage point having Wylie try to get into the middle of it to break it up only to get beaten up by the two makes it even more entertaining.
Of course the real stars are the cats. There are literally hundreds of them and the best scene is where they fight over a dish of raw meat. I loved hearing their very guttural growls and watching them hiss and claw at each other. The close-ups of their eyes and mouths are well captured and they appear well trained as they scratch at Hunnicutt and chase her all around during the final sequence.
The film has a few twists although I saw them coming long before they happened. The film isn’t bad for its type, but it fails to distinguish itself and becomes nothing more than a passable time-filler.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: June 18, 1969
Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes (TV-Print runs 1Hour 30Minutes and has different scenes edited in.)
Director: David Lowell Rich
Available: www.modcinema.com (Both the theatrical and TV-Print.)