Friday, September 30, 2016

STEPHEN KING'S CAT'S EYE (1985) (Blu-ray Review)

STEPHEN KING'S CAT'S EYE (1985) 

Label: Warner Bros. Entertainment 

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.4:1) 
Director: Lewis Teague
Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Robert Hays, Kenneth McMillan, Candy Clark

This often overlooked 80s horror anthology begins with the titular feline escaping the jaws of not only Cujo but the wheels of the cursed-car Christine in a nice homage to Stephen King's other movies. The cat shows up again in the opening story of the anthology,  "Quitters, Inc." wherein a die-hard cigarette smoker named Dick Morrison played by James Woods. Quitter's Inc. seeks professional help to curb his addiction. Quitters Inc. and the strong-armed Dr. Vinnie Donatti (Alan King) have put together quite an extreme stop-smoking program, one based on the tactics employed by mafia, as demonstrated by their willingness to repeatedly electrocute a poor cat as an example of what they will do if they catch him smoking. A threat not directed towards him, but to his lovely wife. The threat is only too real as he comes to find out when he finds that the draw of nicotine is just too much him to resist even when faced with dire consequences. The short has plenty of laughs and uncomfortable moments of pain being inflicted upon his wife, Woods is wonderful as the chain-smoker caught between his addiction and his love of family.  

The cat again come into play in the next story, the high-rise thriller "The Ledge", where we have a former tennis pro named Johnny Norris (Robert Hays, Airplane) who has angered wealthy casino-owner Cressner by running off with his estranged wife. Cressner is played with comical ruthlessness by Kenneth McMillan (Dune) who kidnaps the would-be Lothario and forces him into accepting a deadly bet. The wager is that if Norris can circumnavigate his penthouse apartment on the exterior ledge without falling to his death he will grant his wife a divorce and give the former tennis pro a bunch of money. Norris reluctantly accepts the wager and climbs out onto the perilous ledge of the skyscraper where he is menaced by Cressner who menaces Norris with water hoses and loud noises while taunting him with the line "just trying to keep you on your toes". Norris must also contend with a tenacious pigeon who relentlessly pecks away at his ankles until they begin to bleed. Unsurprisingly Cressner welches on the bet when Norris succeeds but when the tables are turned things to not go so well for the casino-owner. It was a ton of fun to watch McMillan play such a sonofabitch, he's an intense actor and plays the part with so much diabolical glee. The scenes of Norris traversing the exterior of the high rise are done with what appears to be a mixture of rear projection and miniature sets and the optical effects still look good to my eyes, this is a fun one, those with an aversion to heights might even get a bit nauseous. 

Our feline tour guide once again escape his confines and makes his way to the third and final entry, "General", starring a young Drew Barrymore as Amanda, a young girl who is being menaced by a breath-sucking troll that lives inside her bedroom wall. However, her mother (Candy Clark) places the blame for the troll's increasingly alarming shenanigans on the family cat, banishing him to stay the night outside, leaving poor Amanda alone with the malicious troll who threatens to steal her breath while she sleeps. Of course the cat comes through in the end, but I had forgotten what a gory end the troll comes to in this one, and was a bit surprised how bloody it was for a PG-13 rated anthology, but we got away with a lot more in kids movies back then. 

Cat's Eye is a fun watch, based on two of Stephen King's short stories from his Night Shift collection, plus a new one which he scripted just for this movie. I like the connective tissue of the cat going from one story to the next, and Lewis Teague, who also directed adapted Stephen King's Cujo for the silver screen, does a fine job with all three of the vignettes within the context of kiddie horror.  

The anthology arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. with a new 4K scan looking healthy in HD, there is a nice layer of film grain left intact, appearing film like and natural without any major digital manipulation. Colors are strong, skin tones look natural and the image is crisp and detailed. Audio is handled by a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that is nicely balanced with good depth and fidelity. The only extras on the disc are a trailer for the movie and the same audio commentary from director Lewis Teague, which is a solid track giving some back story to how he came to the project, working with Stephen King, his experience with various actors and a lot of technical talk about how many of the optical effects were created. 

Warner Bros. offer up a solid HD upgrade for this 80s Stephen King horror anthology, not on par with Creepshow or Nightmares but still a kiddie-friendly watch that you can enjoy with your kids this October. 

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