“Yes, I am Thomasina. This story’s all about me.”
Except it’s not, not really. This Walt Disney movie, adapted from the novel by Paul Gallico, is more about how the dour windowed vet played by Patrick McGoohan learns to love again – love his child (Karen Dotrice) and love the crazy witch lady who lives in the woods (Susan Hampshire) with a lot of animals.
Thomasina, though she is granted a great many close-ups and a voice-over narration (in the soft Scottish accent of Elspeth March) is really just a CATAPHOR. And if you ever doubted it, it’s spelt out for you when Hampshire says to McGoohan, “Don’t you see that Thomasina is the love your child has lost, and only you can give it back to her?”
But I like to think that Thomasina has a dark side, and that this would be closer to her real story…
They think I’m docile, but I’m not. My life is hell. The brat dresses me in baby clothes. She wheels me in a pram. She deliberately drives away the birds I stalk, and forces me to eat at the dinner table, wearing a bib. Day after day after day – oh, the humiliation, the casual mental cruelty, the lack of respect. But I will have my revenge, oh yes.
One night, while stealing a fat fish from the catch on the quay, I get tetanus. The brat’s father is a vet, but he’s too busy tending to a blind man’s dog to pay me any attention, and so I get sicker and sicker, until everything thinks I’m dead. And indeed I do dream that I’m climbing a heavenly staircase, like the one in A Matter of Life and Death, up and up and up to a feline paradise full of Siamese cats, and presiding over them all – Bast, the mighty Egyptian cat god.
But I’m not dead. I go and live with the witch in the wood, and I bide my time. I wait till it’s dark and stormy and wet, and my fur is plastered against my skull. I look more like a rat than a cat. But then, I have not been my adorable fluffy self for a long, long time. And for that, I have the brat and her father to thank. I climb the tree and peer through the window. The brat is on the bed.
It’s time. Time for payback.
- Whimsical Beginnings (dogandcattales.wordpress.com)
- Patrick McGoohan: Danger’s Man (howsweetitwas.wordpress.com)
- Cat Travels 200 Miles to Return to Owners and Baffle Scientists (newsfeed.time.com)