Sunday, September 23, 2012

To the Litterbox, And Beyond! The Cat From Outer Space

When I think ‘children’s film produced by Disney Studios,’ these things generally do not pop into my mind:

Clearly I did not grow up watching The Cat From Outer Space.

Quick Plot: A mysterious aircraft lands behind the farm of a one-flap down overalls wearing old man and his dog, and while we all cross our fingers for a Killer Klowns prequel, we instead get the adorable entrance of a slim cat rocking a truly fabulous, super powerful (and most importantly, quite sparkly) collar.

He is, after all, The Cat From Outer Space.

The government relocates the now empty vessel to their supersecret facility, a lair so well-protected is has a chain link fence AND sole guard dog working security. Meanwhile, a gaggle of scientists is called in to explain to General Stilton (big cheese jokes galore) what a floating artichoke-shaped crystal found on board might be. 

Fluttery Sandy Duncan can’t figure it out, but she does recommend bringing in her neighbor/carpool buddy/potential love interest Dr. Wilson to unlock its secrets. Though he fails to impress the military, Wilson catches the cat’s eye of Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4-7, the adorable feline he’ll nickname Jake as we discover he is indeed, THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE.

As you might expect, Jake is all sorts of awesome. His super sparkly collar enables him to communicate telepathically, make humans fly, freeze moving things for 20 minute time blocks and most notably, rig any sporting event with incredible feats of cheating. 

See, in order to get back home to his mother planet (where life has evolved to the point it needed to, i.e., felinedom) Jake needs $120,000 worth in solid gold. Naturally, with a clock ticking and a handy gambling addict of a neighbor crashing on Wilson’s couch like Kramer with a drinking problem, Jake and his two-legged pal concoct the perfect crime—er, plan.

Right. It’s a kids film, so betting on multiple football games and telepathically altering the final score is a PLAN, not a crime.

Unfortunately, a visit from Mr. Ed’s loyal Wilbur (here playing a vet who also, whaddya know? seems to have a gambling problem) leaves Jake tranquilized, meaning our trio of heroic (and criminal) scientists must do as heroic scientists in a Disney kids film do:

Head down to the nearest pool hall serving as a front for the mafia and redirect their $1500 bet on a billiards hustle.

But first, let’s finish that beer

And cigar

Hey Sandy, got any crystal meth in that picnic basket?

Between billiards hustling and beer drinking, our heroes pause to face a few other trials, including a kidnapping scheme via a James Bond-like villain who presides over a squirmy Roddy McDowell in his batcave-ish lair bedecked with long-stemmed red roses. 

Bad. Ass.
All this culminates in what feels like a 9000 minute airplane action sequence where Bond Villain and Roddy McDowell kidnap Sandy Duncan and her Persian Lucy (whom Jake has been seriously hitting on and probably, in a deleted scene, already engaged in the kind of sex scene that would make Sasha Grey blush) as Jake telepathically flies a beaten up old plane with Wilson on board. 

All ends well, though countless bouts of innocence have been destroyed in the process.

Much like the raging alcoholic Darby O’Gill and the Little People, The Cat From Outer Space is oozing with the kinds of subplots that would be deemed wildly inappropriate for a PG rated film made today. There’s booze, smoking, gambling, cheating, kidnapping, and organized crime galore and the film is all the more charming for it. The only real shame is that the fairly bare bones DVD doesn’t include deleted scenes, which surely must have featured an orgy.

A terrifyingly easy Google image search

High Points
You have to wonder if Harry Morgan was given free reign to make General Stilton his own. Clearly the actor is having a ball, and it pays off for us

Low Points
Director Norman Tokar was clearly REALLY proud of the kind of technology that enabled him to film the climactic flight finale…for what feels like eternity

Considering the most impressive aspect of this film lies in the perfectly trained performance of its adorable lead, it’s quite a shame that the slinky feline playing the title character doesn’t get a screen credit

Lessons Learned
A hamster-powered coffee maker yields the kind of lukewarm cinematic cup of joe that can instantly be imbibed after production

1500 smackeroos generally calls for another beer

Extraterrestrial felines powered by telepathic collars are one way to fly, but really thick and visible wires are ultimately what seal the process

If the mark wants to go complete top city, he’s got a constitutional right

Look! It’s…
The Devil Times 5’s Sorrell Booke—or Boss Hogg if you want to be all common about it—as the judge that grants Jake American citizenship. Also of note: Michael J. Fox’s dad in Teen Wolf as General Stilton’s most antics-prone reporting officer

Standard Animals Doing Human Stuff Trope Checklist
New Kid In Town: Replace “Kid” with “Full-Grown Scientist” or “Cat From Outer Space” and you’ve got a deal

Recent Dead or Divorced Parent: X
Montage: X (because I’m guessing any attempt at one would violate all sorts of MPAA regulations)
New Friendship: Check

Potentially Inappropriate ‘Friendship’ Between Child & Unrelated Adult (Human): X. Once again, there is nary a character under the drinking--or smoking, or gambling--age
Evil Corporate Enemy: Check
Original Song: X
Bully Comeuppance: Check. Take THAT, U.S. Military!

Small Town Values: X
Back To Nature Moral: X. If anything, the comforts of Americana prove to be far superior to any joys found in outer space

Overall Score: 4/10 But there’s at least one six-pack of beer consumed, so I’m counting that as a bonus point to give us a perfect score

A-Paws Meter
The Cat From Outer Space was a VHS mainstay for many kids growing up in the ‘80s, and if that group includes you, then I highly recommend a revisit, if only to finally identify that point in your life where you delved into the underworld of gambling addiction and tobacco use. As much as I’ve joked about the adult keywords, The Cat From Outer Space is fairly harmless for the young crowd and could make for a great multigenerational viewing party. Just remember to tell the kids that gambling and cheating is not okay. Unless you’re being aided by a cat from outer space. Then the only thing that’s not okay is calling a veterinarian during game time.  


  1. "The only real shame is that the fairly bare bones DVD doesn’t include deleted scenes, which surely must have featured an orgy."

    Have you ever seen "Teenage Catgirls in Heat"? If you were a dude, I think you would like it. It's not exactly funny, but it has girls that act like cats.

    I had the Disney Channel as a kid, so I saw this more than a few times. Rewatching it, it feels stretched out, but I still dig it. That cat has a collar that glows! And he's totally relaxed about it! How can someone not like that?

    Oh, and Spymate is up!!!!

  2. Jake is a super chill alien cat. I wonder how much of that comes from a sparkling collar. I know that if I ever got arrested or threw a party where the cops were called, I'd TOTALLY want Jake to handle it.

    Spymate, btw, sounds fabulous. Linking tomorrow!