3 out of 5 stars

One of the world’s most prolific authors, Stephen King came to prominence in the 1970s after publishing horror classics such as Carrie, Salem’s Lot, and The Shining. Following the success of two adaptations of his work—Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)—the 1980s proved to be a momentous decade for ‘The Master of Horror’. King became a pop-culture sensation whose very name attracted interest from cinephiles as well as bookworms. During the most prolific period of his career, King made his screenwriting debut and penned the successful horror anthology Creepshow (1982), and Warner Bros. wanted another omnibus, so in collaboration with Lewis Teague (Cujo) and Dino De Laurentiis (Firestarter) he wrote the script for Cat’s Eye. Taking inspiration from his Night Shift anthology, King adapted his short stories “Quitters, Inc.” and “The Ledge”, then wrote an original story for the denouement.

Unlike Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt (1972), Cat’s Eye doesn’t rely on a narrator to introduce each story. Instead, the three tales are interwoven together by an adventurous cat traveling from New York City to North Carolina. While wandering the streets of The Big Apple, the feline hears the disembodied voice of a young girl pleading for help… but, unfortunately, the animal is captured by an employer of Quitters. Inc, a company using ruthless means to help clients quit smoking…

“Quitters, Inc.”

3 out of 5 stars

Dick Morrison (James Woods) is determined to beat his nasty habit and signs up for the organisation’s programme, but unbeknownst to him, it’s a self-help operation run by the mafia. During an enlightening initial assessment with Dr Vinny Donatti (Alan King), Dick’s informed of the company’s unorthodox approach to ending his habit. As a demonstration of their techniques, an assistant places the cat in an electrified room and submits it to electrical shocks. Donnati outlines a litany of incremental penalties for his new client if he’s caught with a cigarette again, explaining that Dick’s wife (Marcy D’Arcy) will receive the same shock treatment if he can’t resist temptation. Although Dick doesn’t entirely believe Donnati’s warning, his paranoia soon escalates and he believes he’s being followed.

This first entry is a wonderfully bleak thriller garnished with dread and dark humour. “Quitters, Inc.” vividly displays the harmful effects addiction and paranoia can have on the mental state of an addict. However, it’s the combination of Woods’ manic paranoia and Alan King’s (Casino) menacing sadism that elevates the opening segment. Channelling the same nervous and volatile energy as his character in Videodrome (1983), Woods delivers an excellent performance as a man willing to risk his family’s life for a cigarette, while King’s sinister turn as a doctor utilising draconian methods is gleefully evil. Thankfully, Lewis Teague directs Cat’s Eyes with a light touch and “Quitters, Inc.” greatly benefits from the gallows humour frequently found in King’s best work. One particular sequence when Dick hallucinates giant ambulatory cigarettes, accompanied by The Police’s “Every Breath You Take“, at a party, is used to great effect. The song serves as a stark reminder of the consequences our protagonist with face if he continues to smoke.

“The Ledge”

4 out of 5 stars

The second entry follows our feline observer as he escapes NYC and travels to Atlantic City. “The Ledge” centres on Johnny Norris (Robert Hays) as he finds himself in the clutches of his paramour’s husband, Cressner (Kenneth McMillan). Having discovered his wife (Patricia Kalember) is having an affair, Cressner’s hired bodyguards to kidnap Norris…. but instead of killing him outright, Cressner reveals his penchant for striking wagers and offers a death-defying ultimatum. If Norris can successfully circumnavigate the exterior of Cressner’s high-rise penthouse without falling to his death, he’ll grant his wife a divorce and $20,000. However, if he refuses, he’ll be blackmailed for drug possession and forced to suffer in prison. Seemingly without any other choice, Norris accepts the challenge and makes his way cautiously around the exterior of the tall building. And as he makes his way carefully around, has to avoid Cressner’s attempts to knock him off course. 

“The Ledge” is a demented tale that demonstrates how King can capture an unhinged and vengeful mind. Similar to Creepshow’s “Something to Tide You Over”, it focusses on a sadistic husband tormenting his wife’s lover. One of the more interesting elements of this segment is how it was made. Teague’s direction begins with simple techniques, but after some great flourishes, it evolves into something more original. Due to a modest $7M budget, production designer Grigio Postiglione (Flash Gordon) replicates Atlantic City’s skyline using miniatures, and accompanied by Jack Cardiff’s (Rambo: First Blood Part II) beautiful compositions, it creates an optical illusion and emphasise the distance that Norris would fall if he loses balance. Teague does a magnificent job translating Norris’ antipathy without forgetting to entertain his entertain the audience. Playing very deliberately with a common phobia of heights, the horror here is more visceral than in the other two segments. However, as it reaches its immensely gratifying conclusion, King indulges the premise further by delivering a satisfyingly and fiendishly clever finale.

“The General”

2.5 out of 5 stars

The final segment finds the cat in the arms of the young girl he’s been searching for. After arriving in North Carolina, our feline friend is adopted by Amanda (Drew Barrymore) and named General. The young girl begs her parents to allow General to stay in her room at night and protect her from a monstrous troll under her bed. Although her parents don’t believe her story, they nevertheless allow the cat to stay the night… and during General’s first night in Amanda’s room, monstrous trolls emerge from a hole and slay their parakeet. The young girl’s mother (Candy Clark) believes the cat killed their pet and takes General to be euthanized. That night, General breaks out of the animal shelter and rushes to Amanda’s aide before the troll returns to steal her breath…

I’m unsure if “The General” is a low-budget precursor to Troll (1986) or a play on Gremlins (1984), but it deals with similar concepts. While the first two stories tap into ordinary fears, “The General” jarringly examines the supernatural fears of children. Although it’s the weakest of the three tales, it’s not without some merit. After charming everyone in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), young Drew Barrymore does a great job holding the segment together as Amanda. Her innocent denials of General’s escapades, while being tormented by a monster lurking in her room, are incredibly endearing. However, the standout performance is Candy Clark (Zodiac) as Amanda’s mother, who veers beautifully between sympathetic and tyrannical in such a believable way. The highlight of the segment comes courtesy of famous creature designer Carlo Rambaldi’s incredibly eerie designs. Although the final effect may not be revolutionary compared to today’s standards of VFX, the sequence featuring the wicked troll sitting on the slumbering Amanda’s chest and stealing her breath is incredibly menacing. Rather than using animatronics, Teague juxtaposed Daniel Rodgers (They Live) with oversized fixtures to give the appearance of diminutiveness. It’s an impressive display of camera trickery that climaxes with an amusing battle for supremacy.

King’s work has often proven difficult to adapt into feature-length, but his trademark ingenuity isn’t hampered by the anthology format. Adaptation including Cujo (1983) and Christine (1983) frequently lose their psychological and emotional impact, while his short stories expanded into films—such as Children of the Corn (1984) and Maximum Overdrive (1986)— are too thinly drawn. Although those familiar with King’s shorts will bemoan the collection featured in Cat’s Eyes, it arguably channels a similar tone as Creepshow. “Quitters. Inc” is a satirical observation into the dark souls of mankind, while “The Ledge” feels much more akin to the horror anthologies of old. Like most anthologies, the stories vary in quality and “The General” is ultimately the most forgettable of the three… but Cat’s Eye captures The Master Of Horror’s spirit that makes his stories so irresistible. With a short 95-minute runtime, it deftly manages the combine gallows humour with the fears it wishes to exploit.


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4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Special Features:

For the first time in the UK, Cat’s Eyes has been given a satisfactory 4K restoration courtesy of StudioCanal. Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2:39:1, the 2160p Ultra HD image has been transferred from the original film negatives. Sourced from the original 35mm film stock, there’s a fantastic amount of detail with a healthy amount of grain. However, it never affects the detail and maintains the texture of the image. The exquisite detail is most noticeable during the “Quitters, Inc.” segment. Each wrinkle and hair strand is evidently clear during the close-ups of James Woods. StudioCanal succeeds in intensifying the colour palette as much as possible. Primaries are well saturated with blue skies and skin tones receiving a boost, while black levels and shadows complement the darker sequences. The lights of Atlantic City during “The Ledge” give the image an improved sense of depth. 

The 4K Ultra HD release of Cat’s Eyes features several audio tracks with optional English Subtitles. Unfortunately, purists will be disappointed that the DTS 2.0 track hasn’t been included. However, the DTS-HD 5.1 does the picture sufficient justice. With very few action set-pieces to provide a sonic landscape, the mix primarily focuses on the dialogue. The dialogue is crisp and clean with verbal exchanges always easy to understand. Whereas atmospherics including thunderstorms and pigeon coos are artfully dispersed throughout the soundstage. Alan Silvestri’s (Back to the Future) versatile score benefits from the 5.1 track and is reproduced with strong fidelity; establishing a different tone through each of the tales, it sweeps the soundstage to heighten the unnerving atmosphere. 

  • Audio Commentary with director Lewis Teague.
  • Lewis Teague on Cat’s Eye’—a brand new 12-minute interview with the director. This exclusive interview with Teague covers similar ground to the audio commentary. Regardless, the director covers an array of topics including the genesis of Cat’s Eyes and working with Stephen King. He has some entertaining and informative anecdotes about the production including the grueling process of working with animals.
  • ‘Johnny Norris on the Ledge: Robert Hays remembers Cat’s Eye’ —27-minute legacy interview with the actor.
  • ‘Like Herding Cats: a conversation with animal trainer Teresa Ann Miller’ —7 minute legacy interview.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer.
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Cast & Crew

director: Lewis Teague.
writer: Stephen King.
starring: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Kenneth McMillan, Robert Hays, Candy Clark & James Naughton.