(Warning — contains slight spoilers for ‘The Cat From Outer Space’)
‘The Cat From Outer Space’ (1978) is about a small alien with telekinetic powers who finds himself stranded on planet Earth and is hunted by the military but manages to escape with the help of an earthling by magically making his bike fly using his glowing… hang on!
Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4–7 is a cat from a distant planet where felines are the highest evolved intelligence having advanced to the point where they can control matter with the power of their minds, provided they have their special collars on of course. He’s, basically, a little furry god.
Stuck on Earth Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4–7 befriends a scientist, Frank, who names him Jake. Jake tells a shocked Frank (Jake can talk to Frank using his collar) of his predicament and Frank helps Jake return to his spaceship, currently impounded by the military. Unfortunately Jake discovers his craft needs a quantity of the element “Org 12” in order to take off and it’s only a matter of time before Jake’s Mother Ship leaves the solar system.
Can Jake and Frank collect enough “Org 12” in time? Who is the mysterious and sinister Olympus? And, most importantly of all, is Jake an intergalactic, right-wing sex pest?!
If you’ve ever wanted to see a film where a cat plays a cello and a flute simultaneously using only its mind then ‘The Cat from Outer Space’ is for you. He also pilots a plane, makes people float, freezes dogs, consistently lies, takes drugs, fixes sports games and defrauds the mob too. Throughout all this Jake shows no remorse, learns absolutely nothing and grows in no discernible way whatsoever. Sure, he is a cat but he’s also evil Superman and being cute and furry doesn’t provide automatic absolution. We obviously need to get this maniac off this planet before he does something stupid like get someone killed or vote Reagan.
And that’s all ‘The Cat From Outer Space’ pretty much is — trying to get a cat off the planet before the military or other, more nefarious, forces catch him. It’s a cute idea but for a while near the start things weren’t looking too good for this movie, especially when Jake and Frank have an extended sequence involving Frank levitating over Jake’s spaceship in an attempt to attach a diagnostic device but which is actually nothing more than watching a middle-aged man arsing about on wires. It’s somewhat tedious, poorly executed and I was dreading the entire film would be like this.
Fortunately ‘The Cat From Outer Space’ picks up when they start drinking beer and illegally fixing sporting events. This was not a direction I was expecting the film to take! You see, “Org 12” is actually gold and Jake needs roughly $120,000 worth of it to repair his ship and Frank is broke until pay day but that’s okay because Frank’s mate Norman has been kicked out of the house by his wife so needs to watch the game at Frank’s to see if his bet comes in. Which it does but only after Jake uses his powers to ILLEGALLY fix the match.
So the bulk of the film is about Frank, Jake (who’s now drugged up into a state of unconsciousness), Norman and Frank’s crush Liz attempting to swindle an innocent book-keeper in a mob joint out of a huge pile of cash. Amid all this, and before passing out, Jake also sexually presses himself on Liz’s fluffy white cat, Lucybelle.
Now I have major problems with the character of Lucybelle as she is easily the worst female love interest I’ve ever seen in a film. Look at her! She says nothing, does nothing, has no motivation or defined life goals, sleeps a lot or is (again) obviously drugged or inert, looks blankly into space and isn’t terribly good at acting (she pretty much has the exact same expression on her face throughout the entire film). I have no idea what Jake sees in her other than she a cat and he’s been locked in a spaceship for four months with no cat action, but you still think he’d be able to show SOME control and taste!
Also appearing on the scene is the sinister Olympus who not only gets a great entrance (his men bending over so they can watch the surveillance footage of Jake that was accidentally shot upside down is pretty funny) but also has a fantastic evil lair, a slash in the wall behind his desk revealing countless stars which I’m sure must’ve influenced Ridley Scott’s ‘Legend’ (1985). It’s exactly what you’d want an evil lair to look like.
Needless to say good (well, ‘morally dubious’ at best) triumphs and Jake returns to his ship with the gold in time to return home. Except by this point there is still half an hour left to go and I was baffled as to how they’d fill in the remaining time. Turns out they fill it in by an extremely extended, and pretty cool, stunt sequence involving cars, planes (piloted by cats), helicopters, and cats that goes on WAY too long but has some impressive stunt work.
‘The Cat From Outer Space’ is a fun film. It’s aimed at kids but the writing, despite a few dumb jokes, is decent, good natured and has some nice lines (General Stilton’s codename being “Big Cheese” made me laugh more than it should). I also loved the mafia mob boss in the bar who almost out-Fat Tonys The Simpson’s Fat Tony and the slo-mo break during the pool contest is stylish and funny. The pacing is brisk and, despite a few lulls near the start, actually improves and picks up as the film goes along so it’s hard to get bored.
Although I did find the ending somewhat unnerving. Rather than flying back to his Mother Ship Jake decides to stay on Earth PERMANENTLY and even becomes a U.S. citizen, enthusiastically pledging allegiance to the United States whilst extolling the virtues of the nation to the extent that if there was ever a sequel I’d expect to see Jake in his spaceship bombing the shit out of the Russians or helping the Contras overthrow the Sandinistas.