The Night of a Thousand Cats/La Noche De Los Mil Gatos (1972)

Night of A Thousand Cats (1972)‘Dorgo is a great cook, and meat is his speciality.’

A rich playboy picks up beautiful women in his helicopter. After some sessions of casual sex, rather than go through a break up, he strangles them instead, adding their heads to his collection and feeding their remains to his large number of pet cats.

Mexican exploitation filmmaker Rene Cardona Jr really was a chip off the old block. His dad had given the world delights such as ‘Night of the Bloody Apes’ (1969), ‘Wrestling Women Vs The Aztec Mummy’ (1964), ‘Neutron Traps The Invisible Killers’ (1965) and ‘Santo and Dracula’s Treasure’ (1969). But these were just the jewels in the crown of many other titles featuring monsters, wrestlers, cowboys and killers over a career lasting almost four decades. He was also responsible for the distinctly unfriendly children’s film ‘Santa Claus’ (1959), which often appears on ‘worst film of all time’ lists and rightly so. In short, Junior had a hell of a lot to live up to!

And it’s pleasing to report that he certainly gave it his best shot. Hugo (Hugo Stiglitz) is independently wealthy; his days spent in playing golf, flying around in his helicopter, playing chess with sinister butler Dorgo, looking after his cats and adding to his collection of severed heads. lt’s a hard life, to be sure. When the film opens, he’s also romancing blonde Christa Linder, who seems perfectly ready to give up everything for our humourless leading man, probably because he hardly ever removes his cool shades. Anyway, he gets her in a boat and then kills her on a deserted beach. Oh, hang on, is she the one he kills later on after he shows her his collection of pickled heads? Hmmm. l’d have to go back and watch it again to be certain.

Because that’s the entire plot of the film right there. Boy meets girl, boy and girl have sex, boy kills girl, puts her head in a jar and feeds the rest of her to his cats. Again and again. Absolutely nothing else happens. The story is not the only thing that’s mindlessly repetitive. Stiglitz’s preferred pick up method is to buzz women in his helicopter. In a film only about 80 minutes long, literally about 15 minutes of it just consists of bits and pieces of that. Now, I realise that hiring a helicopter must have been an expensive item on the production budget so they couldn’t afford not to use it, but even so! What doesn’t help these sequences is that exactly the same piece of music plays on the soundtrack every time he’s airborne. lt’s seriously tedious at best. There’s little here for gorehounds either as all the kills are relentlessly uninventive and almost bloodless.

So why is Stiglitz doing all this? Well, we do see a flashback sequence to his romance with another pretty blonde, who it seems he intends to marry. Unfortunately, Dorgo’s a bit slow on the uptake and she ends up as dead as the rest. In other words, it’s just more scenes of a woman in peril that conclude in exactly the same way as all Hugo’s other relationships, only this time he’s not the actual killer. Dorgo’s still around so obviously it wasn’t all that big a deal anyway. Unlike when he finally beats his master at chess, which turns out to be a serious tactical error on his part.

Stiglitz actually co-produced this-project, which is a bit of a puzzle considering his DOA performance. Our main heroine (sorry, prospective victim) is played by Anjanette Comer whose career nosedive would probably make for a far more interesting story than what we’re given here. She’d got her big break in Tony Richardson’s black satire ‘The Loved One’ (1965) and followed it up by starring opposite some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. There was Marlon Brando in ‘The Appaloosa’ (1966), Robert Wagner in ‘Banning’ (1967) and Anthony Quinn and Charles Bronson in ‘Guns of San Sebastian’ (1968). She’d even appeared as a guest on ‘The Johnny Carson Show’ in 1969! How on earth did she end up in this?

Night of A Thousand Cats (1972)

The judges on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ should have been more encouraging…

Cardona Jr probably reached the height of his career with cheap ‘Indiana Jones’ knock-off ‘Treasure of the Amazon’ (1985) because that had Donald Pleasance, Bradford Dillman, Stuart Whitman and John Ireland. Ok, they were all at the end of long careers by then but it was a starrier cast than he’d assembled for ‘Jaws’ wannabe ‘Tintorera…Bloody Waters’ (1977) or ‘Zindy, the Swamp-Boy’ (1973) which starred his dad and his son!

Being charitable, there’s just about enough script here for a 25 minute TV episode. The decision to just to recycle events over and over again instead of actually trying to come up with more story proves predictably disastrous.

A very boring experience indeed.

Nightmare City / City of the Walking Dead (1980)

Nightmare City (1980)‘Aim for the brain. We must be very specific about that.’

A military transport makes an unscheduled landing at a big city airport. When the authorities surround the plane, they are attacked by the passengers, who have turned into flesh-eating mutants. And they’re a bit peckish…

Cheesy Spanish-Italian ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978) rip-off that is never anything but a lifeless copy of the George A Romero classic. Director Umberto Lenzi provides almost no explanation for the deadly outbreak, apart from an early reference to a serious radioactive spill and the fact that one of the hungry passengers is a scientist who was being brought in to investigate the accident. After that, it’s just the usual mixture of survivors on the run (who will be next to get eaten?), serious military types in a bunker (move our forces to zone 7), and lots of extras covered in ketchup overacting outrageously.

Heading up the armed forces is General Mel Ferrer, a respected and serious actor, who had appeared mostly famously in ‘Lilli’ (1953), ‘War and Peace’ (1955) and ‘The Sun Also Rises’ (1957). He was also married to Audrey Hepburn for 14 years. But that had all been quite a few years before and his late 1970’s credits had been consistently embarrassing. For TV, there were guest slots on ‘Logan’s Run’, soap juggernaut ‘Dallas’ and a prominent part in Irwin Allen’s dreadful mini-series ‘The Amazing Captain Nemo’ (1978). On the big screen it was even worse; appearing alongside Lee Majors in chucklefest ‘The Norseman’ (1978), having a ‘close encounter’ with bonkers ‘first contact’ rip-off ‘The Visitor’ (1978), turning up in Italian horrors ‘Island of the Fishmen’ (1979) and ‘The Great Alligator’ (1979) and even headlining for Lenzi before in cannibal shocker ‘Eaten Alive!’ (1980).

However, at least Ferrer doesn’t get directly involved in any of the silliness on display, remaining firmly on the sidelines of the main action. Perhaps it’s telling that the only member of the bunker staff who interacts with anyone outside is Major Francisco Rabal and that’s limited to scenes with his girlfriend Sonia Vivani and a fleeting appearance in a helicopter. Yes, this is ‘patchwork’ filming making at its finest, with the main plot (such as it is) focusing on TV reporter Hugo Stiglitz and his wife Laura Trotter. Unfortunately, the film tells us almost nothing about the pair so there is no audience engagement with their eventual fate. Characters are introduced simply to be killed, while Ferrer and his buddies in the bunker look grave and make decisions to ‘clear sector g’ and ‘pull back from area 5’ etc. etc.

Nightmare City (1980)

🎶..and now…the end is near…🎵

The ‘Z’ word is never mentioned, and our flesh-eaters move at normal speed, which predicts some more recent developments in the genre. However, although gore is plentiful and detailed, it’s not particularly convincing, and the ‘twist’ ending is desperately poor, leaving the distinct impression that either there was no budget to film a notable climax, or the production simply ran out of money.

Director Umberto Lenzi began his career by jumping on the ‘Hercules’ bandwagon in the  early 1960s but then switched to ‘Bond’ when that became popular a few years later. After that, it was Gallo thrillers and ‘Godfather’ pictures throughout the 1970s before horror took over and he started shooting films about cannibals. Nothing wrong with working in different genres, of course, but Lenzi seems to have been little more than a journeyman director with an eye firmly fixed on commerical possibilities, rather than anyhthing else.

Hurried, cheap and undistinguished horror flick aimed squarely at the home video market of the early 1980s.