René Cardona Jr., 1972
Starring: Hugo Stiglitz, Anjanette Comer, Zulma Faiad, Gerardo Cepada
There are not a drastic amount of murderous cat films, but enough that I couldn’t watch and review them all in one day. I wish I could say that I had a really difficult time deciding what to review, but that just isn’t true. I passed by The Corpse Grinders (1971), Donald Pleasance-vehicle Night Creature (1978) and made-for-TV fare like Maneaters are Loose! (1978). There is just nothing that compares to René Cardona Jr.’s Night of a Thousand Cats aka La noche de los mil gatos. Strictly speaking, this is not an animals attack film, it is about a playboy serial killer, Hugo (played by regular Cardona Jr. collaborator Hugo Stiglitz), who picks up beautiful women, takes them back to his castle, seduces them, kills them, cuts of their heads, preserves them in large jars, and then feeds their corpses to a room full of a thousand cats.
That plot premise is actually not the most insane thing about this film. Allow me to illustrate some of the real insanity. Hugo picks up women by flying over their homes in a helicopter, smiling lecherously till they agree to come for a ride or give him their phone numbers. Shockingly, a lot of the time this maneuver works. He has a mute servant, Gorgo, who gleefully waits for a window of opportunity to get one of Hugo’s babes all to himself, even if that involves chasing down the distressed damsel. There are lots and lots of slow motion shots. Lots of them. Usually of women futilely trying to escape. Or of cats. There are also some truly amazing shots through what surely must be the world's largest brandy snifter.
There is some absolutely tremendous editing, which results in such delightful fare as a sex scene that cuts back and forth between Hugo, his temporary lady love, and shots of large, taxidermied animals. Another involves a conversation between Hugo and his most recent conquest, where each word is uttered in a different room of the castle. PETA would have an absolute aneurysm at all the cat tossing in this film -- as you can tell the cats are really thrown through the air at not fatal, but likely painful distances. Other than the tossing, there are a lot of insane shots of cats running around, eating human flesh, sitting, jumping, etc. And in each one of these shots, the cats look demented. The grand conclusion involves the escape of the long-suffering cats, who proceed to attack and feast on human flesh, primarily Hugo’s.
I realize that all of this sounds amazing. And it is. But you also have to keep in mind that there are a lot of boring scenes devoid of action or dialogue. There is very little gore, less sex, and no genuine attempts to make the film entertaining. Chances are, you do not want to watch this alone and you probably don’t want to be sober. I had the great fortune to see it at Exhumed Film's last 24-Hour Horrorfest in October 2012. If you can’t see it in a packed theater (what are the chances), at least try to watch it in a room full of horror and exploitation fans who will all giggle with disbelief.
If you’ve already seen any of René Cardona Jr.’s films, you should have an idea of what to expect. He’s responsible for such delightful Mexploitation crap like the Jaws rip off Tintorera (1977), which I’m reviewing later this week, and Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979). His partner in crime, Mexican actor Hugo Stiglitz, has a sort of charisma, but mostly oozes sleaziness, all the way to the cuffs of his absurdly colored bell-bottoms -- which of course makes him perfect for this film. Actresses Zulma Faiad and Western star Anjanette Comer (The Appaloosa, 1966, The Return of Count Yorga, 1971, The Baby, 1973) are lovely set pieces, but they aren’t given much to do other than play golf, ride in helicopters, drink fine liqueur, and then get decapitated.
I can’t say that Night of a Thousand Cats is a good film, but I can assure you that you’ll never see anything else like it. I absolutely loved it. There are a few DVD releases floating around, including this one from Trinity, but be careful of cut prints. It has also been released as Blood Feast.