WHITE CAT OF EVIL

 

James Bond sipped his Dry Martini, adjusted his toupée and shook his head sadly. He missed the old days, when he’d looked like Sean Connery and had been allowed to smoke and have unprotected sex as often as he liked, back in the golden era before the exciting stunts were supplemented by CGI and his action scenes were being shredded into incomprehensible mulch in the editing room. He missed the sexy girls who never complained, not when he walked out of their lives the morning after without so much as a thank you note, nor even when he failed to prevent them falling into the clutches of the bad guys to be drowned or have their necks broken or their naked bodies painted gold. Those were real women, he reflected wistfully; they liked to run around in bikinis.

From Russia With Mews: looking forward to a Siamese Fighting Fish supper.

Pussy Is Forever: James Bond will pay dearly for kicking this cat.

But most of all he missed the worthy opponents: hook-handed Dr No, stabby-shoed Rosa Klebb, fatty Goldfinger and one-eyed Largo. He missed colourful, larger-than-life villains who had put on a grand show before they were finally disposed of – shot or stabbed, harpooned, or sucked out of aeroplane windows, or dropped down chimneys. But there was one villain who had always got the better of him, who had kept coming back, who unbeknownst to him had been pulling all the strings, had devised all those cunning plans to steal nuclear warheads, take over the world, hold governments to ransom. Ernst Stavro Blofeld, ostensibly the head of global criminal organisation SPECTRE, had never been more than a façade, a mere can-opener who had invariably allowed greed or snobbery or personal vendetta to get in the way of world domination. Unlike Bond’s real adversary, which had been hiding in plain sight all along. Bond shook his head again, marvelling at his own lack of perception. How could he have been so blind?

The White Cat of Evil on active field duty: You Only Purr Twice

Bond didn’t even know the mastermind’s name, but somehow he doubted it was Tiddles or Fluffikins or Sodapuss. He just knew it was white, possibly Persian, with enormous amounts of fur; Blofeld’s trousers must have been covered with the stuff. Bond wondered when, exactly, the White Cat of Evil had first decided to take over the world by latching on to an unwitting human supervillain. Some of history’s most notorious megalomaniacs – Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler – were known to have been ailurophobes, perhaps because, even then, they had sensed a deadly rival in their world-conquering schemes.

For Your Paws Only: The White Cat prepares to leave Blofeld to his fate.

But Cardinal Richelieu, one of 15th century Europe’s most powerful figures – and nowadays regarded as a bad guy thanks to his subsequent portrayal in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers – was a notable ailurophile. He let his cats sleep on his bed; at the time of his death in 1642 he had 14 of them. It is not known whether any were Persians, but in MGM’s 1948 production of The Three Musketeers he is played by Vincent Price, who is filmed caressing a handsome tabby.

Tabby Cat of Evil: Cardinal Richelieu and his cat in The Three Musketeers.

All the clues were there in Bond’s early adventures; he couldn’t understand how he’d missed them. He studied the files on From Russia With Love and Thunderball, which didn’t even show Blofeld’s face; in each case Ernst’s identity is signalled only by the presence of the White Cat, which pretends insouciance and merely snacks daintily on Siamese Fighting Fish as its human lackey busies himself setting elaborate traps for British spies or pressing buttons to turn a double-dealing operative’s booby-trapped seat into an instant electric chair.

Thundercat: The White Cat of Evil and Blofeld’s booby-trapped seat buttons.

For more than an hour and a half of You Only Live Twice, Blofeld’s presence is similarly signalled only by the White Cat in his lap. Though perhaps in this case, Bond surmised, the White Cat regretted having left the security of SPECTRE’s comfy HQ for active service in the field, judging by its panicked reaction to the loud gunfire and explosions when Bond’s cohorts mount an armed assault on Blofeld’s volcano HQ; Blofeld (played in this instance by Donald Pleasence) does well to hang on to it while it struggles, but it is clearly ill at ease, and is last seen cowering between a henchman’s feet.

The downside of active field duty: feline freak-out in You Only Miaow Twice.

Having learnt its lesson, the White Cat leaves it to Blofeld to instigate most of the active villainy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, though can briefly be glimpsed in a couple of scenes, lounging in the villain’s comfortable Alpine office; obviously it has been telling Ernst what to do all along. Nevertheless, its elevated profile having given it a taste of the limelight, it doesn’t just step up for a pivotal role in Diamonds Are Forever, but even vies with an assortment of naked girls for the viewer’s attention during Maurice Binder’s credits. By this stage in his career, Bond had been aware that where the White Cat goes, Blofeld follows, but our feline fiend was once again one step ahead of the game, arranging for several lookalikes to befuddle 007’s simple brain. Bond resorts to brute violence, kicking one of the white cats towards a couple of Blofelds in their Las Vegas hideout to see which of them it will choose, but only succeeds in shooting one of the villain’s doubles. “Right idea, Mr Bond,” says the real Blofeld. “But wrong pussy,” says Bond.

Diamonds Are Forever: pussy in the opening credits.

By the time of the pre-credits sequence of For Your Eyes Only, Bond had had one of his surgical makeoevers and was now resembling Roger Moore, who courageously drops a wheelchair-bound Blofeld (not identified by name due to a copyright wrangle) down a chimney while dismally failing to apprehend the real mastermind, which abandons its crippled can-opener in disgust. But Blofeld was back, and so was the White Cat, to choreograph the nuclear blackmail in Never Say Never Again (an unofficial remake of Thunderball) where it gives up all pretence of being a household pet and usurps Blofeld’s role to address representative of NATO via video camera. And they, fools that they are, still assume they’re dealing with a mere human being.

Never Say Miaow Again: Blofeld gives up entirely & lets the cat do the talking.

Bond couldn’t help himself; he got out his secret packet of Marlboro and lit one up, hoping it wouldn’t set off the smoke alarm the architects had insisted on installing in his swish bachelor pad. The White Cat of Evil’s reign of villainy had been so successful it had turned into a cliché; how on earth could 007 be expected to know which pussy was which? There it is in Enter the Dragon, nipping John Saxon’s finger as he tours Han’s torture museum. There it is again in the bonkers Japanese horror movie Hausu, where it flashes its eyes, plays the piano and drowns a girl in its own blood.

Hausu: The White Cat of Evil shows its true colours (ie white).

And here’s that White Cat again, in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, operating under the codename Mr Bigglesworth and adapting the ultimate disguise by transforming from a hirstute Persian into a hairless Sphynx. It infiltrates ostensibly innocent children’s entertainments: stealing a doughnut from Dr Claw’s sidekick in Inspector Gadget (as M.A.D. Cat, it has a bigger role, though is no longer white, in the animated TV series that preceded it) or hopping species in the animated TV series Danger Mouse to become Baron Silas Greenback’s fluffy white caterpillar Nero – a name either intended as ironic, or devised by people who don’t know what the word “Nero” means in Italian. Once upon a time it was black cats that struck fear into the hearts of men, who viewed them as witches’ familiars or path-crossing bad luck charms. Nowadays, though, the evil pusses in kiddy entertainment such as Stuart Little or Cats & Dogs are white, all white.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: Mr Bigglesworth before…

…and after the cryogenic freezing.

It was another animated TV series that finally confirmed what Bond had suspected for some time: in the That Darn Katz episode of Futurama it is revealed that The White Cat of Evil really is running the show, that its apparent owner is, literally, having his strings pulled, and that cats are in the process of taking over the world with a lethal combination of cute and cunning, downgrading their human carers even further from can-opening servants to hapless slaves. Bond realised he had stumbled across a vast and frightening conspiracy, the like of which put SPECTRE’s best efforts to shame. And now it was up to him to do something about it, to apply his secret agent smarts to stamping out the feline threat. For starters, it was time to present his suspicions to M, and possibly to Q, who might yet be able to develop some anti-cat device to save civilisation as he knew it.

Futurama: Professor Maurice Katz with The White Cat of Evil.

But first, Bond decided, he would have one last Dry Martini for the road. He went into the kitchen to get the bottle of vodka out of the freezer. Strange; he could have sworn he’d closed the door to the balcony, but now it was standing ajar. Bond closed the door firmly and smiled to himself; maybe he was getting senile after all. Thinking so much about the White Cat of Evil had got him imagining things, such as that faint throbbing he thought he could hear coming from somewhere deep within his apartment. Obviously it was just some sort of electrical appliance he’d forgotten to switch off, and in no way resembled purring. James Bond chuckled to himself and began to fill the cocktail-shaker with ice. Shaken, not stirred. Just the way he liked it.

You Only Live Twice: the White Cat of Evil checks out the camera.

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16 Responses to WHITE CAT OF EVIL

  1. cyancat-lei says:

    It's nice to see cats like 'em.. I wonder how is it like on owning even one… Check out my cats on my blog post Two Queens, btw. Thanks!-cyancat

  2. Boz Shenton says:

    It are a disgrace that Mr Tuffty never gorra credit in any of the Bond films, yet all the different Blofelds did and they such rubbish they only got one go each!

  3. sandinski says:

    Hi there, Anne! Really enjoying your site in Los Angeles, thanks to a good friend in London. As a fellow cat-on-film fancier, I would like to point you towards Susan Seidelman's funny-awful GAUDI AFTERNOON, where Judy Davis (!) plays a self-styled detective who pets her lap kitty rather too vigorously when deep in thought. The screen caps should amuse.

  4. ANNE BILLSON says:

    Thanks Sandinski! Always meant to see Gaudi Afternoon, but never did. But since there's a cat in it, I obviously need to track it down ASAP.

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  13. Michael says:

    Does anyone know if it is the same white cat in the james bond movies and Bruce Lee’s enter the dragon or is there a number of different cat “actors” of the same breed in these movies?

    • AnneBillson says:

      I’m sure they’re different cats, Michael. Even in a single film, the film-makers often use several lookalike cats, depending on what the cat is supposed to do. Take a look at my Cat of the Day on The Third Man – clearly several different kittens were used, even in the same sequence.

  14. dcairns says:

    Don Corleone’s playing with a kitten in scene one of THE GODFATHER seems to be in this tradition: more in line with Richelieu than Blofeld, maybe.

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