Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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


Label: Umbrella Entertainment 
Region Code: A/B
Rating: M (Mature)
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.4:1) 
Director: Lewis Teague
Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Robert Hays, Kenneth McMillan, Candy Clark

Synopsis: A wandering supernatural feline's adventures provide the linking story for Stephen King's Cat's Eye, a dead on trilogy scripted by King and directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo).
The staff at Quitters Inc promises to help nicotine fiend Dick Morrison (James Woods) kick the habit. If not, someone in Morrison's household might get smoked... because QI is run by a very persuasive mob family. Next, a luckless gambler (Robert Hayes) is forced into a bet involving a stroll around a building - on the five-inch ledge encircling the 30th floor. Finally, our wayfarer kitty rescues a schoolgirl (young Drew Barrymore) from a vile, doll-sized troll.
Fan of the works of Stephen King will have fun finding the many references to his other projects throughout the film.

This often overlooked 80's trilogy of terror begins with the titular feline escaping the jaws of not only the dog from Cujo (1983) but the wheels of the cursed-car from Christine (1983)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 (Videodrome) seeks the help of Quitter's Inc. to curb his addiction to nicotine. Quitters Inc. and the strong-armed Dr. Vinnie Donatti (Alan King, The Bonfire of the Vanities) have put together quite an extreme stop-smoking program, one seemingly 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 and family. The threat is only too real as he comes to find out when sneaking a puff proves too much for 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 and there's a great surreal party-scene with him surrounded by exaggerated smoking behaviors. .  

Next up, 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 high rise penthouse apartment on the exterior ledge without falling to his death he will grant his wife a divorce and give the tennis pro a bunch of money. Norris reluctantly accepts the wager and climbs out onto the perilous ledge where he is menaced by Cressner who harasses Norris with water hoses and loud noises, all while taunting him with the annoyingly awesome 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 welshes 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 son-of-a-bitch, 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 light headed by the high rise thrills. 

The third and final entry in this trilogy of terror is "General", starring a young Drew Barrymore (E.T.) 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, Amityville 3-D) places the blame for the troll's increasingly alarming shenanigans on the family poor cat, banishing him to stay the night outside, leaving poor Amanda unguarded 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 titular 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 a kiddie friendly horror anthology.  

Audio/Video: Cat's Eye (1985) arrives on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment looking great, there is a nice layer of film grain that looks like it has not suffered any major digital manipulation. The image is crisp, the colors are strong, skin tones look natural and the image is nicely detailed, the cinematography from Jack Cardiff (Ghost Story)looks phenomenal. Audio is handled by a lossless English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 track that is nicely balanced with good depth and fidelity, the score from Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future) sounds good in the mix, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Umbrella's release has two new, exclusive extras, a half-hour interview with actor Robert Hayes, plus an eight-minute interview with animal wrangler Teresa Ann Miller, produced by Cinemaniacs.  The interviews are good, with Hays recalling working on the film, particularly working with McMillan and how some of the high rise visuals were achieved, and animal trainer Miller recalls working on the film with her father Karl Lewis Miller, and how the St. Bernard seen in the film was actually one of the same one from the Cujo adaptation. Notably, Umbrella do not carry-over the audio commentary with director Lewis Teague which is found on the US disc from Warner Bro., so if you own that release you may want to hang onto it.  

The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in an over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring new artwork, which is fantastic, made to look like a well-worn Stephen King paperback novel, even the spine has a coll distressed look. The reverse side features a variant of the same artwork minus the rating label, and the backside of the b-side features the original one sheet movie poster for the film. The disc features the same key art as the sleeve. While this release is labeled as a region B it plays just fine on my region A player. 

Special Features: 
- Interviews with Actor Robert Hayes (28 min) 
- Interview with Teresa Ann Miller (8 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 

Cat's Eye looks great on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment, a solid HD upgrade for this 80's Stephen King horror anthology with some very cool artwork and exclusive new extras. This is an awesome trilogy of terror that is both suspenseful and kiddie-friendly enough that you can watch it with your kids, which is awesome.