alan young, dallas mckennon, disney, film review, hans conried, harry morgan, ken berry, mclean stevenson, movie review, norman tokar, roddy mcdowall, ronnie schell, sandy duncan, the cat from outer space, walt disney, william prince
Today, I tackle yet another request from a fellow blogger and friend, Simoa, from Champagne for Lunch. You could say that the film she requested is out of this world! It’s The Cat from Outer Space.
Yeah, the title is quite stupid. Was the film stupid too or did I actually find myself enjoying it? Let’s go through my review to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie begins one night with some strange lights emanating from near a farm. What’s causing these lights? Well, it appears to be a UFO of sorts.
And if you somehow missed the title of this move, what type of alien creature was piloting this spacecraft? None other than a member of Felis Catus itself!
It’s not long after that the United States government finds out about this and sends some military men to check it out. Led by General Stilton, played by Harry Morgan, the men can’t believe what they’re seeing. At first, they think it must be some sort of Communist craft and have it transported to the nearest military base via helicopter. The cat (who has been watching all this) also hitches a ride back to the base too with nobody noticing/suspecting. After all, who suspects a cat?
At the military base, General Stilton has a group of scientists try to figure out what a particular part of the spacecraft is for. It seems to be a sort of floating orb/propulsion unit thing and none of the scientists has any clue about it.
Two of the scientists are Dr. Liz Bartlett, played by Sandy Duncan, and Dr. Frank Wilson played by Ken Berry. The two like each other and even have a dinner date planned for later that night.
But, when the cat sneaks into Dr. Wilson’s room alone, the plans for the night change. The cat, voiced by Ronnie Schell, starts to telepathically communicate with Dr. Wilson! And as you can imagine, Dr. Wilson is shocked out of his mind!
You see, the cat, whom we’ll call Jake from now on, is from a planet where all the inhabitants are cats; they had no need to evolve further than that. They wear special collars which amplify their brain power giving them abilities to communicate telepathically, move objects, open doors, etc.
Jake asks Dr. Wilson to help him sneak back into the military base to repair his spacecraft as he trusts Dr. Wilson. Once Dr. Wilson accepts everything that’s going on, he agrees. He cancels his date w/Dr. Bartlett (without mentioning the cat…smart move) and sneaks into the military base with Jake. How exactly? Well, Jake uses his special collar to open doors, freeze the guards, and even giving temporary flying powers to Dr. Wilson.
They find the spacecraft and see what repairs need to be done. Unfortunately, the military soon realizes that the two of them are on the premises and Dr. Wilson and Jake escape quickly.
Meanwhile, a Mr. Stallwood, played by Roddy McDowall, has been working secretly among the group of scientists, but it appears that he’s not all he seems to be. He inadvertently noticed Dr. Wilson and Jake and followed them to the military base while marveling at all the power Jake appears to have.
When Dr. Wilson gets back to his apartment with Jake, they realize that in order to fix the spacecraft, they need to get a bar of gold which costs about $120,000. Jake would then use his collar to shrink the gold bar and fix the spacecraft with it. (Apparently, they use gold on his planet this way.) Dr. Wilson has no idea how to amass so much money until he comes across his friend, Dr. Norman Link, played by McLean Stevenson.
Dr. Link is an avid gambler and knows the ins and outs of how the world of gambling works. Dr. Wilson hesitantly agrees to let Dr. Link in on the secret of Jake to help them win the money. Of course, Dr. Link doesn’t believe Dr. Wilson regarding Jake, so Dr. Wilson has Jake use his collar to do marvelous things to persuade Dr. Link. Meanwhile, Mr. Stallwood has been secretly video recording all this that’s going on in Dr. Wilson’s apartment.
Once Dr. Link finally accepts the truth about Jake (which understandably takes a long time), he agrees to help them. He has them put down some money on a pool game with the understanding that Jake will use his collar to manipulate the results of the game so that they win $120,000.
Unfortunately, a mix-up happens later on when Dr. Bartlett assumes Jake to be sick and has a vet give him a sedative. This knocks Jake out cold and happens to be not long after the pool game is supposed to take place! When Dr. Wilson and Dr. Link find out about this, they let Dr. Bartlett in on the secret and then all head to the pool room to cancel the bet. Sadly, it’s too late to cancel, so Dr. Bartlett has to take part in the pool game (even though she’s never played before) while Dr. Wilson tries using Jake’s collar himself to manipulate the game.
Fortunately though, Jake regains consciousness in time and ends the hilarious game by manipulating the game so that they win. The doctors then use the money to get their bar of gold.
Meanwhile, we find out the truth about Mr. Stallwood. He apparently is a spy who works for his evil boss, Mr. Olympus, played by William Prince. Mr. Stallwood gives Mr. Olympus the video recordings about Jake resulting in Mr. Olympus wanting the cat for himself. Why? Uh…well, to have the power, I guess. What is Mr. Olympus’ main goal in the end? Uh…world domination, maybe? What is the name of Mr. Olympus’ organization? What exactly does Mr. Olympus do that makes him evil? Why did he have Mr. Stallwood infiltrate the group of scientists in the first place since he didn’t know about the cat previously? Umm…well, we don’t really know.
Mr. Olympus happens to be one of the worst written characters in a Disney film ever. He’s the bad guy just to be the bad guy! There’s no backstory, explanation, or exposition given about him. He’s just the bad guy and we have to accept it.
While this is going on, General Stilton has since discovered that Dr. Wilson was the one who snuck into the military base earlier and he also learns about the gold bar that the doctors bought. General Stilton goes with some men to Dr. Wilson’s apartment to arrest everyone, but Jake uses his collar to freeze the men.
The doctors use this opportunity to escape. You see, Jake has only 1 hour to fix his spacecraft as he has a rendezvous to meet with the mother ship another spacecraft from his planet that’s awaiting him. Dr. Wilson (while wearing General Stilton’s uniform that he stole whilst General Stilton was frozen) takes Jake back to the military base.
However, Dr. Link catches up with them to inform them that Dr. Bartlett has been kidnapped by Mr. Olympus. Mr. Olympus is transporting her via helicopter to his lair so that he can use her as leverage to get Jake. Jake decides that he has to help the doctors save Dr. Bartlett, so he misses his 1-hour window. They go to a nearby junkyard where Jake uses his collar to power up a broken-down biplane with Dr. Wilson inside it so they can catch up with Mr. Olympus’ helicopter.
This results in an aerial chase scene which is the climax to the film. At the end of it all, Dr. Wilson manages to save Dr. Bartlett whilst Mr. Olympus, Mr. Stallwood, and a couple of henchmen jumped from their helicopter and are now dangling from some trees below. Assumably, they’re arrested and the doctors are pardoned for any military base trespassing that they may have conducted. The film ends with Jake applying to become a citizen of the United States of America.
And that was The Cat from Outer Space. How was it? Well, with a premise as stupid as “the cat from outer space”, it was actually kinda enjoyable. It knows the only way for it to work is if it’s a comedy and it does this really well. Having comedic actors such as Sandy Duncan, Harry Morgan, and Roddy McDowall aboard really keep the levity of the film high!
They all give great performances along with Ken Berry. McLean Stevenson’s performance was okay, whilst William Prince’s was nothing to talk about as his character was entirely pointless. There was no need for a “bad guy” to exist (especially only in the last 1/4 of the film) as the military were pretty much the “antagonists” already!
Another problem that I had with the story is that there were a few missed opportunities revolving the character of Jake and his collar. For example, there’s a brief moment where Jake loses his collar at the military base and the military find it. But, a few seconds later, for comedic purposes, Jake goes back and gets it. Wouldn’t it have been much more interesting if the military kept the collar and tried to figure out what it was? That would result in Jake not being able to talk or do anything marvelous as he wouldn’t have any powers then, which in turn would make it harder on our protagonist doctors. Wouldn’t that have been more interesting?
But other than that, I was pretty satisfied with the story. The special effects scenes were really good too, like Bedknobs and Broomsticks good.
Another cool thing in the film were some cameo appearances by a few Disney voice actors.
Summing up, if you wanna see a fun little Disney comedy, this one may not be entirely without fault, but it’s still pretty enjoyable!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)