That Darn Cat! (1965 USA)

disneyWhy not a review for our inner child? A classic Disney mix of conservatism and hopelessly virginal good humour, this still hooks its audience with a flair for clean, corny vignettes. An attempt to bring the girlish Haley Mills into a womanly – if comedic – grace. Her voice does grate on me after a while though and her personality is annoying. (I am not pleased to find out I share a birthday with miss goody two shoes either)

On with the show. Ms Mills plays Patricia Randall, the impetuous wannabe sleuth and owner of D.C. (short for Darn Cat); a cross-eyed Siamese, sporting a wrist watch instead of a collar around its neck. Turns out the watch belongs to a bank teller who was taken hostage during a daring robbery. Enter FBI agent Zeke Kelso (Dean Jones), a congenial and squeaky clean presentable young dude by 60s standards, to whom Pat is immediately drawn. She’s too nice to tell him how much she likes him. He’s too polite to tell her to buzz off – especially after Pat takes it upon herself to enter the investigation as an active participant.

LEspion-aux-Pattes-de-Velours-Image-2Out of the human acting talent on display, my favourite pair is the meddling next door neighbour and her husband. So delightful are they that they possibly outshine the cat. The stupendous Elsa Lanchester lent weight to whatever role she played and William Damerest could be the poster boy for henpecked husbands the world over. Moving on, you can tell the plot was taken from a novel – there are several funny lines, there is more telling detail, the bad guys are convincingly threatening, and the characters are more three-dimensional than usual for a 1960s “family” movie. This is what draws in the adult section of the audience.

Bad guys Neville Brand and Frank “The Riddler” Gorshin simply ooze evil when they are coolly discussing the potential fate of hostage Grayson Hall. I  like the actress who plays the hostage – she looks like an older woman who might actually work at a bank – not like a Hollywood glamour girl. Even now as I watch this film, I really believe they would do serious bodily harm to this poor woman, in much the same manner that Roddy McDowell (as a hot-headed and stuffy neighbour) would be willing to disembowel our hero, the cat.

that darn catAnd therein lies our focus – the cat. This brave little feline is the true (unbilled and unpaid!) hero of the piece. And D.C. clearly is capable of holding his own against overwhelming odds. Even with star talent surrounding at every turn, the writers were smart enough to keep the focus on D.C. and his antics. The assorted chases, the jealous boyfriend, the vengeful neighbour (with his duck dinner clutched firmly in hand), the bickering couple next-door; all revolve around or are in some fashion related to, the actions of the furry little sleuth. The writing is fun; speaking on an heretofore unseen level of intelligence to its young audience.

The result is that children are entertained and clearly understand what’s going on, while grownups marvel at the complex doings in a small town that are precipitated by one mischievous pussy and the offbeat humans that surround him. This film is a whopping credit to Disney’s talented live-animal handlers and art direction teams.

The sets and scenery in this delightful little any-town are realistic enough to make you believe they are a real community, yet spritely and colourful enough to make you want to move there. Odd why they picked a cross – eyed cat. This is not the best performance by a moggie in a film though. I’ve seen better, but I still want to give him a cuddle until he purrs. Awww!

dc the cat

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