Vincent Price plays Cardinal Richelieu, who in real life was a famous cat-lover. He let his cats sleep on his bed, and at the time of his death in 1642 had 14 of them.

To judge by this scene, Price was also a cat lover. He is clearly at ease with having it in his lap while he acts, and the cat itself looks extremely contented.

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Michele Soavi was assistant director on several of Dario Argento films in the 1980s. He made his directing debut with this arty Italian slasher movie set almost entirely in a locked theatre. The man in the bird mask is a homicidal maniac who has murdered the director and all but one of the actors who have been rehearsing a play. Right now, surrounded by corpses, he’s taking a break, relaxing in an armchair with a cat in his lap. As you do.

The large, round object to the left of the screengrab is a key, in big close-up. It’s stuck in the floorboards of the stage. The sole surviving actress is under the stage, trying to get hold of the key so she can escape from the theatre.

But as she tries to get hold of the key, the movement attracts the attention of the cat, who jumps off the murderer’s lap and pads over to investigate…

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Stewart Granger poisons his wife in this thriller set in what appears to be Edwardian London. While he’s pretending to be a grieving widower and smiling at some caged birds, the black cat lurks around to reproach him (or maybe it’s just hanging around the birds). In any case, he’s not a cat person, though his late wife evidently was.

Later, Jean Simmons (who plays the besotted maid who blackmails Granger into taking her into his bed, with noirish consequences) picks it up and pets it.

No harm comes to the cat, though at one point Granger does aim a half-hearted kick at it.

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I won a Jonesy!

Very proud to report that my short story MY DAY BY JONES, the cat’s-eye view of Alien, has been awarded a Jonesy by The Girls’ Guide To Surviving the Apocalypse, an excellent site which I can heartily recommend, and full of exciting badges! Hurrah for Jones!

MY DAY BY JONES is now available for download in all e-formats from

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One of the grotesque felines in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

So you think women and ethnic minorites get a raw deal in the movies? That’s nothing compared to how cinema discriminates against cats. Dogs are waggy-tailed good guys who save tots from drowning; cats are stuck-up, psychotic and about as trustworthy as a femme fatale in a 1940s film noir. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is only one example of Hollywood’s insidious anti-feline agenda. It’s a slight advance on the first Cats & Dogs in that, this time, not all the cats are evil. But the villain who wants to take over the world is a cat, and the psycho in Hannibal Lecter restraints is a cat. Film-makers love dogs, we all know that. But what have they got against cats?

It’s true there’s a sprinkling of films in which cats play heroic roles, but you have to forage hard for them. Courageous cats confront The Mummy, save Drew Barrymore from a troll in Cat’s Eye, or stake out succubus Alice Krige in Sleepwalkers. They act cute and canny in That Darn Cat and The Aristocats, but Disney undercuts its pro-pussy stance with those mean Siamese in Lady and the Tramp and Lucifer in Cinderella, one of countless kiddy-films in which rodents are depicted as preferable to cats. It’s perfectly natural, not to mention hygienic in a household with a child in it, that Snowbell should want to eat Stuart Little, but does he get any thanks for it?

A feline Hannibal Lecter from Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Elsewhere, cats are pressganged into service as antisocial signifiers: one kitten is cute, but a whole bunch of them is mad Michel Simon in L’Atalante or Ron Perlman in Hellboy. Lonely singleton Sandra Bullock has just a cat for company in While You Were Sleeping, rogue bomber Sylvester Stallone identifies with his stray tom in The Specialist, while Elliot Gould’s cat in The Long Goodbye summarily abandons him when he fails to produce the right moggynosh.

But more often than not, cats are squarely on the side of the bad guys. Who on earth decreed that fluffy white cats should be the ultimate incarnation of evil? There’s an especially malicious one with flashing eyes in the bonkers Japanese horror movie Hausu. Cats nestle in the laps of Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers (1948) or Blofeld in the Bond movies, though being a villain’s pet does have its drawbacks; the cat in You Only Live Twice is understandably unhappy when the underground HQ is exploding around him and tries to wriggle out of Donald Pleasence’s arms.

Another of the grotesque felines in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

When cats aren’t being evil, they’re victims. All around the world, and in independent sectors beyond the reach of the American Humane Society, felines are routinely subjected to the sort of horrible abuse no-one would dream of dishing out to dogs: crushed by Donald Sutherland’s head in Novecento, wrapped in cling-film in Bad Boy Bubby, drowned in Gummo, hanged in A Short Film About Killing, shot in Before the Rain, stabbed with pruning shears in Dogtooth.

And don’t get me started on the mad scientists. In The Fly (1958) a cat gets put through the teleportation machine and ends up as a disembodied miaow, while in Re-animator, Jeffrey Combs reanimates a moggy with the snarky remark, “Don’t expect it to tango, it has a broken back.” In this context, one has nothing but sympathy for The Incredible Shrinking Man‘s cat when it tries to eat him, while in Alien, you might almost suspect Jonesy of being in cahoots with the monster, the way crew members go wandering off to find him and end up impaled or cocooned. If it had been a dog on the Nostromo, you can be sure it would have barked at the alien and saved everyone’s lives.

A cat dressed in a bunny suit from Cats & Dogs: yet more feline humiliation in The Revenge of Kitty Galore

I suspect cats, like women and ethnic minorities, pose a threat to the complacency of the dog-loving white male status-quo that makes up the greater part of the film-making community. So they have to be put in their place. We can’t have them being uppity, because then – according to Cats & Dogs – they’d try to rule the world.

Which just goes to show how little film-makers know. Because cats rule the world already, and without even trying.

This article first appeared in the Guardian 29 July 2010

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PRECEDENCE: Top Priority
CASE ID: 1965-TDC (pending)
Title: THAT DARN CAT! (1965)

SYNOPSIS: use of subject as informant in aforementioned case; investigation of suitability for involvement in further covert operations; assessment of political and social allegiances.

SAMPLE SONG LYRIC: While the city sleeps/Every night he creeps/Just surveying his domain/He roams around/Like he owns the town/He’s the king who makes that plain (Richard M Sherman & Robert B Sherman; performed by Bobby Darin)

Warning: subject may look relaxed, but he rarely drops his guard.



CRYPTONYMS: That Darn Cat, Puss, Mister C, De Kat, Die Katze, Cat Man, Le Chat, Matou, El Gato, O Gato, Kotchka, Pusa, Kissa, Kedi, Neko, Mao, Ko-Yang-Ee, REDACTED.

AGE: Exact age unknown, but subject is evidently a fully mature male.

DESCRIPTION: Seal-Point Siamese. [ETA Subject’s Asian ancestry and possible links to regimes in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea to you, Agent Kelso) and Myanmar require further investigation.] Eyes blue. Black fur streaked with tan and white. Exhibits enhanced abilities in areas of physical engagement such as leaping, prowling, hiding, scratching and miaowing; it has yet to be established whether or not subject underwent black ops training in REDACTED at REDACTED.

PRINCIPAL CAN-OPENERS: “Patti” and “Ingrid” Randall (aka Hayley Mills and Dorothy Provine). To the casual eye, bubble-headed and boy-mad, but their unusual autonomy (parents allegedly “abroad”) and, in the case of “Patti” (hitherto to be referred to as Can-Opener One) an unfeasible willingness to embroil herself in an ongoing felony investigation and – in particular – her use of an alias when contacting the FBI, strongly imply the girlish scattiness is a disguise; the possibility that Can-Opener One is a very dangerous young woman and in the pay of foreign agencies ought not to be summarily dismissed.

Subject discusses strategy with Can-opener One and Can-opener Two.

“Well actually, he isn’t my cat. He isn’t anybody’s cat.”
“You don’t own someone like DC – he’s family.”
“DC’s a cat, he can’t help his instincts. He’s a hunter.”

KNOWN ADVERSARIES: Gregory Benson (aka Roddy McDowall), hunter, mother’s boy, dog-lover; “Dan” and “Iggy” (aka Neville Brand and Frank Gorshin), bank robbers and kidnappers.

DETAILS: Subject is unusually adept at stealing food, hiding under the bed and outwitting stupid dogs. He has been observed breaking and entering private premises, usually through kitchen windows, in order to help himself to food, exhibiting scant regard for property in the process (see attached file containing crime scene photos of damaged crockery). He has also been observed interacting with cats of the opposite sex, with whom he has clearly REDACTED, but which neverthless has reassured our CIA contacts that he has no affiliation whatsoever to the Cambridge Five. Indeed, subject’s interest in the opposite gender may be said to verge on the untrammeled and indiscriminate, making it likely that he has sired a great many kittens by several different mothers of various breeds. [ETA: subject’s weakness for the ladies may prove useful to us as leverage at a later date.]

Subject is a master of disguise; here he is, looking like a completely different cat!

Subject’s predeliction for fish is also well-known, and was instrumental in leading to the location and capture of the two bank robbers in this case, after one of them purchased a salmon steak and subject duly tracked him back to the robbers’ HQ. Subject’s presence in aforementioned HQ enabled kidnap victim Margaret Miller (aka Grayson Hall) to swap his collar for her watch, on the back of which she hurriedly managed to scratch the first two and a half letters of the word “HELP” (see enclosed file containing photograph of watch). Upon subject’s return to the Randall residence, the scratches were seen by Can-opener One, who brought them to our attention, which is when Agent Zeke Kelso (aka Dean Jones) was assigned to the investigation and subsequently (and at great cost to himself in light of his cat allergy) directed multi-agent nocturnal surveillance of the subject.

Subject is in possession of ninja skills and should be approached with caution.

Subject further aided our operation by jumping at the head of one of the bank robbers, thus preventing him from using his firearm at a crucial moment during the arrest.

It should be noted, however, that subject has also exhibited extreme anti-social behaviour, such as stealing a duck, and subsequently opposing Can-Opener One in a game of tug o’ war with aforementioned duck. Subject is furthermore alleged to have molested Benson’s prize albino fantails, left muddy pawprints all over Benson’s freshly-washed car and dug up Mrs Benson’s tulip bulbs. Agent Kelso reports that subject deliberately exacerbated his cat allergy, refused to cooperate by allowing his pawprints to be taken and showed evidence of ninja-like skills in evading surveillance. Also exhibited insolent attitude by playing pat-a-cake with winged insects at the drive-in.

Subject disrupts a drive-screening of Night of the Surfer by playing pat-a-cake.

COMMENTS: Subject is a formidable and cunning feline who in future could prove very useful to us in the area of REDACTED, in particular when the REDACTED is in the REDACTED and we don’t want REDACTED to find out. His primary motivation appears to be an ongoing quest for food, and he will stop at nothing – including stalking, theft, dog-bothering and destruction of property – to obtain it. Although, in the case that brought the subject to our attention, he was instrumental in leading to the apprehension of a brace of dangerous armed robbers and kidnappers, his role in the drama is, at best, ambiguous. Subject’s character, in fact, appears to be totally amoral, so that one could imagine, in an alternative scenario, that his actions might well have benefited rather than thwarted the criminals.

CONCLUSION: 1965-TDC is rare case of a Disney project featuring a feline protagonist who is not in the least bit anthropomophised. Subject behaves in a catlike manner throughout the investigation in which he is a primary informant, seemingly heedless of the chaos he sows in his wake and indifferent as to the fate of the agents assigned to tail him; whether or not this is incidental or a sophisticated tactic expressly designed to throw us off the scent is REDACTED.

Subject exhibits preternatural ability to nap, and a complete lack of moral scruple.

The closest subject has come to exhibiting human qualities while under observation is obeying a “Don’t Walk” sign [REDACTED maintains this is unusual behaviour for cats] and later “overhears” and seemingly understands Gregory Benson when he talks about his mother’s old-fashioned method of preparing duck; “She hangs it out on the screen porch for 48 hours before cooking”. Subject was spotted hotfooting it to the Benson house immediately afterwards to steal the bird, and furthermore employing objects such as an foldaway ironing board in order to obtain access, which leads us to suspect he has had specialist training in REDACTED.

PROGNOSIS: Now our cat’s been paid/Every accolade/And he’s earned all his acclaim/In a blaze of glory/He ends our story/In the Feline Hall of Fame/But the way life goes/In a year, who knows/From the family he begat/You may wind up with one of/Maybe the son of/That Darn Cat. (Richard M Sherman &Robert B Sherman; performed by Bobby Darin)

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When, at the end of Alien, Sigourney Weaver says, “This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off,” she’s not telling the whole truth. Because there’s another survivor, curled up with her in the hypersleep capsule. Jones (or Jonesey) the ginger tom.

Jones serves multiple functions within the Alien storyline:
1) CATGUFFIN, a pretext for characters to go wandering off on their own.
2) CATPANION, an excuse for Ripley to express herself out loud when she’s otherwise alone.
3) CATSHOCK, a cheap shock tactic in which the cat jumps out unexpectedly.
4) CATSCALLION, a wild card; at the end of the film, the cat might yet be harbouring an alien.

In short, one cannot overestimate the importance of Jones to Alien. This is his story.

STOP PRESS: the short story MY DAY BY JONES is now included in CATS ON FILM, the definitive work of feline film scholarship, available in paperback and digital formats from all the amazons (paperback + kindle), smashwords (kindle + epub + PDF) and CreateSpace (paperback).

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There are more CATS ON FILM than you might think. Their narrative functions are many and varied and, if I may say so, much more interesting than the narrative functions filled by dogs. 
In this blog I intend to explore these functions, as well as make more general observations about cats and the way they are depicted in the movies. Also, it’s a good excuse to post lots of screen-grabs of cats looking cute, inscrutable, menacing, pissed-off or just plain indifferent. Because I like looking at pictures of cats.
Welcome to CATS ON FILM. This blog is dedicated to the one and only Tiger Billson 1988-2003. Moggy in a million.

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