What did the catman do?

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Anne Billson runs the excellent CATS ON FILM blog — so I asked her if she’d seen CATMAN OF PARIS (1946). Do you know what her reply was? “Is it rubbish?” The cynicism of the Modern Woman.

Well, yes it is rubbish, but it’s not TOTAL rubbish, or at least it’s not devoid of interesting weirdnesses. Like the way the hero, right before he blacks out and becomes, we presume, the titular man-feline, is tormented by images of ice, snow, a lightning bolt in negative, and a violently swaying buoy in a stormy sea. What’s that all about? I don’t know, but it’s rather Lynchian.

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The film takes place in a low-budget Republic Pictures backlot Paris, and boasts reliable sleaze Douglas Dumbrille as its most recognizable name/face. Although the catman himself is pretty recognizable once you’ve seen him.

I’ll also give the film five extra points for its audacious opening shot, in which a black cat saunters blithely down a miniature street, like Kitten Kong. The shot is reprised later in the film and proves to be exactly what it appears to be: a miniature set (constructed for some slender plot pretext) with a housecat in it. So I deduct three points for that naturalistic cop-out.

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The plot makes very little sense and doesn’t even allow for many exciting situations: I do like the nonsense myth about the catman being immortal and turning up in different periods of history. The Cat Came Back. I got curious about incompetent scribe Sherman L. Lowe and looked up his credits — he enjoyed a longish career (thirty years) without concocting anything celebrated or memorable, and always working in lowbrow genre stuff — serials and B-westerns and TV episodes. Working with Rin Tin Tin Jnr seems about the high point. Possibly he marks a useful benchmark for Hollywood employability — I don’t imagine you could be much less talented and still get work, unless you had a father-in-law.

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11 Responses to “What did the catman do?”

  1. You mean he’s not an idiot brother? What a disappointment, his CV sure looks like one.

  2. Never saw THE Cat, but I note it’s from the creator of Dirty Harry, Harry Julian Fink. An altogether more promising writer than poor old Lowe.

  3. David Boxwell Says:

    First-billed Carl Esmond lived to be 102! Worked for Ophuls (Liebelei, in which he effortlessly exudes naughty charm) in 1932.

  4. I see Ophuls hired him again for Lola Montes. Sweet. He’s fine in this: Hollywood seemed to see him mainly as Viennese doctors, so this was kind of a change of pace.

  5. Jacques Tourneur directed several episodes of T.H.E. Cat

  6. My first thought was…Catman Scothers. It’s been a long day.

  7. I meant to type Catman Scrothers. Guess it was longer than I thought.

  8. The latest Tourneur I’ve seen that’s good is his Twilight Zone episode. Richard Matheson campaigned for him to get the job, and he did it beautifully.

    Oh, I did see an episode of Bonanza he did. That was not good. Worse, it was an episode of Bonanza.

  9. Imagine, when I was a wee tot I had to watch Bonanza along with other TV oaters of the time if I was to watch TV at all. Hence my ongoing detestation of the genre. I tried to watch the Altman Bonanzas once, but it wasn’t easy and I usually didn’t make it to the end.

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