Confessions Of A Psycho Cat

Director: Herb Stanley   
Eileen Lord, Dick Lord, Jake LaMotta

Sometimes, usually when I am bored and my mind starts to wander, I imagine myself being stalked and hunted by an enemy of some kind. The enemy could be someone from my past, a particular someone in the present day, or a totally imaginary one. The setting for the hunt could be anywhere, from the city I live in to the remote wilderness. When I imagine the scenario, I find myself eventually getting the upper hand and ultimately winning the struggle. This is not due to being in great physical shape - I happen to be out of shape from avoiding exercise in order to repeatedly sit in front of the television to watch B movies. But it's because of repeatedly watching B movies that I am positive I would gain the upper hand in a real-life struggle. You see, those countless hours of watching action and violence have taught me what I could do if I found myself being hunted down. For example, I could take a cab to the entrance of a building, and make an arrangement with the cab driver to pick me up at the rear entrance, which would throw off any pursuers on foot who got out of their cars at the entrance as well. Out in the wilderness, I could do things like leave footprints in mud, then walk backwards on the footprints out of the mud, which would hopefully send the pursuer away in the wrong direction. Even if the pursuer managed to catch up with me, I think I would do well. I'm not strong, but I know things like stomping on feet if grabbed from behind, or grabbing a handful of dirt and throwing it into the pursuer's eyes if I was thrown to the ground during the struggle.

As you may have concluded from reading the above, I have high expectations when it comes to movies that involve pursuit sequences, either as a small part of the movie, or for the bulk of the running time. Having been educated so much in the art of the chase, it just seems natural to me what the pursued (or even the pursuer) should do at any moment, and I get frustrated when they do something both completely different and wrong-headed. Sometimes I have to wonder if I would enjoy the movie more if I hadn't seen so many pursuit scenes and movies in my past. That doesn't mean that I can't enjoy a pursuit movie where the pursued make wrong-headed decisions. Take the case of Confessions Of A Psycho Cat, where all of the pursued make extremely dumb decisions while they are on the run. These scenes are kind of frustrating, but the movie manages to be very entertaining all the same, because much of what else is in the movie is utterly deranged, so much so that the experience is very amusing and keeps you watching in order to see what kind of insanity is coming next. That's not to say that there isn't anything genuinely good to be found, but almost the entire bulk of the entertainment comes from the twisted nature of the movie.

The setting is New York, and the events of the movie center around Virginia Marcus (Eileen Lord), a woman that we learn has had severe mental problems in the past. After her brother leaves her in order to go on a safari trip to Africa, and despite her getting psychiatric care, she finally snaps. Confessions Of A Psycho CatShe decides to have her own safari; more exactly, she decides to hunt down human prey right in the Big Apple. To put some spice (and maybe a little danger) in the game, she decides to hunt down people who have murdered in their past but have been acquitted of the crime. The three people she selects are a varied bunch. Charles Freeman is an actor who slashed to death his girlfriend's husband when he stumbled upon the two of them together. Buddy is a junkie who accidentally gave his girlfriend a lethal dose of drugs. And Rocco (played by former boxer Jake Lamotta) is an ex-wrestler who killed an opponent during a bout. Gathering the three men together, she explains the game to them, enticing them by giving them a generous offer. Each man will, at the beginning of the game, will be given a post-dated check for $100,000. If any of the men are subsequently able to avoid Virginia and stay alive for the next 24 hours, they will be able to cash their check. There is reluctance at first, but in short order all three men agree to play the game. And in short order as well, the hunt commences...

Now, if you were one of those three men, what would you do in this situation? Probably the same thing that I would do: Find some reasonably secure place to hole up for 24 hours, then come out and enjoy your payday. But none of the men end up doing that. I realize that there would be no movie if the men didn't go out in the open, but it's still frustrating to see the men leaving their sanctuaries, and for the most ridiculous reasons. (Freeman goes out after his agent calls him about a part in a play available to him, Buddy goes out to attend a party, and Rocco is moved to get out of his apartment after getting mocking phone calls from Virginia.) But it's not like this provides enough material for its 69 minute running time. In a desperate attempt to reach feature film length, the story comes to a complete halt a number of times in order to show nudity and soft-core footage. This is almost entirely at the party Buddy attends, though there is also a topless hooker in the room that Rocco temporarily holes up in. There's a funny thing about this footage - not once do you see any of the principle actors appear with the nudity and sex. It doesn't take a good eye to figure out that this material wasn't in the original cut, but was filmed and edited in later in order to spice up things. It may have been considered quite hot footage in the '60s, but by today's standards it's quite dull, slow-moving and more posing for the camera than any erotic movements.

The movie isn't just padded with soft-core footage. There are other instances where the running time has been padded, like when Buddy wanders around the New York streets for several minutes, or when Virginia visits the sanitarium where she once was kept in. But there are a few other problems that don't have to do with padding. There are a few audio problems, like some poorly recorded audio at the party. Another audio problem is with the music, namely some poorly chosen stock music for some specific scenes. There is also a problem with the way the movie chooses to tell the story. One of the first scenes of the movie consists of Buddy walking down the street, suddenly being attacked by Virginia, and fleeing from the attack. At this point in the movie, we don't know who is who, so we are unsure of what to react to all this - are we on the side of the woman, or should we be on the side of the man being attacked? A few minutes later, Buddy makes it to the apartment where the party is taking place, and he starts to explain to his friends (and the audience) just what happened and why. This is fine, except for one thing: His explanations (shown via flashback) also include the experiences of Freeman and Rocco, experiences where Buddy himself was not involved in or anywhere near. How he knows just what happened to them is never explained.

A problem like that last one may have been a major one in another movie, but strangely enough in Confessions Of A Psycho Cat, it's part of the charm. The movie is endearingly goofy, having so much fun with itself that you find yourself caught up in its spirit. Though the soft-core footage ultimately becomes a little tiresome, it at least provides some early laughs, seeing how out of place it is with the rest of the movie. There are individual outrageous moments, like when a dog is thrown off the roof of a tall building, and the camera peeks over the edge so that we can see its long plummet to the ground. But much of the fun comes from Virginia. To call Eileen Lord's performance over the top may not be a strong enough term. She rips into her role with a clenched teeth giggle, snarling away while barely keeping back her laughter. She enthusiastically throws herself into whatever the screenplay dictates she should do, such as dress as a matador and do some bullfighting with one of her targets. Obviously Lord is having a lot of fun in her role, and it's unbelievable (and a shame) that this was her only screen credit. At least you can say that she began and ended her acting career on a high note.

Although the movie goes for a goofy tone, there are individual moments that are more serious in tone that prove to be surprisingly effective. While we don't know who is who in that previously mentioned sequence where Virginia hunts Buddy, it manages to be a surprisingly tense scene. There is excellent use of hand-held cameras that rush backwards with great speed as Buddy dashes towards the lens, quick cuts of dips and shakes to represent the shaky viewpoint from Buddy's eyes, as well as longer cuts as when Buddy finds a drainage tunnel and races inside. It climaxes with a struggle in a pond where the participants really seem to be fighting for their lives, giving everything that they've got to win and stay afloat at the same time. Another effective sequence is the flashback where Freeman slashes to death his girlfriend's husband. Except for background music, there is actually no audio to be heard. The reason it is effective is that it forces us to observe the visuals more closely than if we were to use the audio as a crutch. When the camera swoops down towards the face of the victim, we are forced to fully absorb his tortured look, and it provides a genuine chill, especially since it's surrounded by all that previously mentioned goofiness. Come on, confess it; by now it sounds like your kind of movie. I must confess that I found it that way.

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See also: Overkill, Raw Courage, Survival Run