Eye of the Cat is one of those killer cat movies, this time with crazy old cat lady Aunt Danny (played by Eleanor Parker, who was a big deal back in the 1940s). She is forced to get rid of the cats, the cats come back, and shit goes down.
Michael Sarrazin plays nephew Wiley, who along with his girlfriend Kassia (Gayle Hunnicutt) is trying to rip off his aunt. Sarrazin was one of those hip young hippie actors who had a short moment in films like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, but he’s probably not what you remember from that film. The director wanted Tippi Hedron for the role of Kassia, but that wasn’t possible, probably because having only recently gotten out of her contract with Hitchcock, she was looking for better fare.
The whole thing ends up being a very goofy movie: a killer cat movie with some hippie stuff tacked on. It’s set in San Francisco, and they go to a hippie love-in type of happening. Both Sarrazin and Hunnicutt are half-naked for much of the film. And since the aunt is a wheelchair user, the setting is a set-up for the obvious scene where she ends up careening down “the crookedest street in the world.”
Eye of the Cat was directed by David Lowell Rich, who was a hack of epic proportions. Rich was bog-standard quality as a director, best known for doing a lot of The Twilight Zone episodes. It was written by Joseph Stephano who, along with the novelist Robert Bloch, might as well have changed his middle name to “the writer of Psycho.” After that he mainly got offered Psycho knockoffs. The script isn’t as brilliant as that. The best bit of the movie is the most epically fake rear-projection scene I have ever seen in a movie. They get a nice shot of San Francisco as a backdrop, then they move out of camera and you see them in the car. It’s so artificial, but it’s beautifully done. Also, the kitties are quite scrawny and menacing.
It’s a movie made by someone who’s trying to be hip but who had no idea what they were doing. The result is all a bit of mess, with aspects of swinging ‘60s psychedelia, sex comedy, and hack exploitation film stuff—enjoyable enough, and a bit campy, as you would imagine. Not great, but with some fun to it, especially the cats. Night Gallery actually re-used some shots from the film in an episode as well.
In the extras, Kim Newman unsurprisingly does an appreciation of the film, there’s a TV version that has a very different ending, and there’s a comparison between the theatrical and TV cuts. Also here are the original theatrical trailer, a radio spot, an image gallery and a booklet with new and archival writing on the film.