Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Castle Rock Companion - Cat's Eye

Surprise!  Castle Rock Companion is now a weekly series.  Since I don't have to take the time to record and edit, these can come out a bit faster.  They may take a break for holidays or if I catch up with my backlog, but there will be much more Castle Rock Companion here from now on. Enjoy!

Cat's Eye was actually my first exposure to Stephen King.  My dad had taped only the last short of the film onto VHS at some point, and I used to watch it quite frequently.  I'm guessing he did not tape the first two because they're not exactly suitable for children.  The film gets its name from the fact that much of the events are supposed to be seen at least partially from the cat's perspective. 

There's also a lot of nods to Stephen King's past work as the movie starts by having the cat chased by Cujo and almost run over by Christine.  As if that's not enough, we see a clip from The Dead Zone movie on television during the first short.

I imagine to someone who has never smoked or never been close to a smoker, "Quitters, Inc." probably seems really extreme.  But I fully believe the stated fact that cigarettes are more addicting than heroin.  It's easy to see how a man down in the depths of it and wanting to quit could invent a story like this.

The only major detail changed from story to film is that Morrison has a daughter rather than a son.  I think they did this for convenience purposes, as Drew Barrymore plays a total of three different roles in the film.  I also couldn't help but smile when he gives her the cabbage patch doll.  I imagine people younger than me have no idea just what a big deal that was for the time.

The other detail they change is that it was a bunny in the short story that got shocked, whereas here they use the cat to keep the stories linked.  It doesn't really matter, it still made me feel bad for the poor thing when they kept shocking it like that.  Overall it's a good short that blends humor with real life horror in a good way, and James Wood really sells it.

File:No Smoking (Poster).jpg

There is a Bollywood film titled No Smoking which was heavily influenced by "Quitters, Inc.", though Stephen King is not credited.  It also features a company that uses extreme methods to get people to stop smoking.  The punishments have similarities, though I think the idea of forcing your loved ones to inhale a severe amount of smoke is actually more clever than electric shock treatments.  The story is also more surreal and the ending very different.  I highly recommend the film if you can find it.

It's not an easy feat to keep a reader imagining what it is like to be hanging on a ledge.  You've got to keep the suspense up just right to remind them of the narrator's constant peril.  The brevity of the story, "The Ledge," goes a long way in helping with that, and a brief conflict with a pigeon keeps it from getting dull.

They tried to add a bit more to the film version to try to keep it more interesting, but honestly to me it didn't help at all.  The short drags considerably and I just wanted it to be over with.  The moments with the cat don't make any sense nor do they actually contribute to what's happening, and there's just not enough there to make me care about what is going on. 

In a lot of ways, this last short was one my earliest brushes with horror.  I was simultaneously scared of this little troll and yet loved to watch this over and over again and see him defeated by the cat.  Of course these days I don't find him scary, I just find him hopelessly adorable.  He's ugly cute!  Also, while the effects may look primitive now, they work well for what they are and totally convinced me as a kid.  I also remember thinking that the mom was the true villain of the story.  She's so mean to that cat!

It's a simple little story but I really love it.  It blends humor and action and horror together really well, and is a great nod to cat lover's everywhere.  Even if you don't watch the rest of the film, you need to watch this short.

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that there is a song that plays during the credits that was written specifically for the film:


  1. If I remember correctly, didn't the original "Quitters Inc" story also use the threat of rape against his wife and child as one of the punishment levels? I'm glad they toned that down for the movie.

    Overall, I quite like this set. "Quitters" and "Ledge" (which I love, but you and I have well-established differing tolerance levels when it comes to pacing ;) ) have the feel of classic Twilight Zone episodes, with the more fairytale-like "General" standing out from the others. Which isn't a bad thing, as it's still a great short. Don't quote me on this, but I believe I heard at some point that "Cat from Hell" was originally meant to end the film - and it's grittier crime story with a twist would thematically fit the first two - but it was a short Romero really enjoyed and wanted to use on Tales from the Darkside (which, of course, wouldn't actually happen until the movie), so King traded it for "General", which he'd written as a stand-alone episode. I have the script for the stand-alone version of "General", as well as the full screenplay with all three, and there's not much that was changed.

    1. I swear I replied to this yesterday, but I guess blogger ate my comment. :P

      I don't remember there being a threat of rape in the story, but it's been a while since I read it. I seem to recall with his son in particular it was more just a general idea that they were going to cause him harm, and of course they do give his wife the shock treatments.

      "The Cat from Hell" would match the tone of the two shorts a little better, so I can see that being plausible.

  2. +JMJ+

    I've known about Cat's Eye thanks to the review The Mike did a few years ago, but not Quitters Inc. And it's the latter's premise which I ultimately find most fascinating. How far would you go to shake an addiction . . . ?! It's too bad about The Ledge, though . . .

    1. I definitely recommend finding No Smoking if you can then. It's a great exploration of the whole concept.


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