Sunday 19 November 2023

The Cats (1968)

Duccio Tessari’s I bastardi (1968) is one of those European movies that gets a bit confusing when it comes to titles. It was released in English-speaking markets variously as The Cats, The Bastard, Mod-Cats and Sons of Satan. For convenience I’ll refer to it as The Cats.

This was an Italian-French-German co-production but was shot at least partly in the United States. Certainly all the location shooting (and there’s plenty of it) was obviously done in America.

Rita Hayworth is Martha and she has two sons, Adam (Kinski) and Jason (Giuliano Gemma). She loves them both but especially Jason. One can’t help feeling she may be a bit blinded by maternal love since we see Jason murder half a dozen people in the first few minutes of the movie. Martha calls her sons her kittens (hence the English title).

Adam and Jason are both criminals. Martha doesn’t mind as long as they pay her her allowance and keep her in whisky.

Jason’s killings were intended to wipe out Adam’s criminal rivals. Jason would be paid by receiving the proceeds of a jewel heist.

Everything is going great for Jason. He has lots of money. And he has a cute sexy girlfriend, Karen (Margaret Lee).

Unfortunately things are about to fall apart for him. He ends up grievously injured and is rescued by a pretty lady rancher, Barbara (played for former Bond girl Claudine Auger).

Fate has played a perverse trick on Jason. Barbara is his one chance of happiness. Any sane man would be delighted to win Barbara’s love but Jason doesn’t want her. He obviously prefers bad girls. And he has scores to settle. Revenge is all he can think about. He doesn’t care how much it might cost him.

So this is an obsession movie. It’s also a very dark very violent very cynical movie. Of all the characters in this movie Barbara is the only decent human being. Martha is a crazy drunk. Adam and Jason are psychos. Anyone who trusts Karen deserves what he gets.

We know this is all leading up to a violent finale and then the movie adds a twist that I can absolutely guarantee you won’t see coming. It really is the kind of thing you’re only going to see in an insane late 60s movie. There is a reason for it and when you find out the reason it’s kind of crazy.

Like most European movies that were filmed in the U.S. this movie still feels totally European. It’s a deranged eurocrime movie that just happens to take place in Arizona.

Rita Hayworth does the crazy drunk thing extremely well.

It’s hard to judge Kinski’s performances because of the English dubbing but he manages to get across plenty of Kinski derangement. Giuliano Gemma is effective enough as the obsessed Jason. Margaret Lee oozes sex and treachery.

You won’t get too many chances to see Rita Hayworth and Klaus Kinski starring in a movie together.

Kinski’s groovy sunglasses are a highlight. There’s plenty of that 60s aesthetic if you like that sort of thing (and I like it a great deal).

This movie is on DVD in the Warner Archive series. It’s barebones but it’s a pretty good transfer. The English dub is the only soundtrack option.

The Cats is a pretty decent movie if you enjoy movies about hyper-violent criminals. I liked it. Recommended.


tom j jones said...

Tempting, if only for the cast!

Apart from the Bond movie, the only other thing I've seen Claudine Auger in was playing the antagonist in one of the later Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes stories (she was very good).

dfordoom said...

tom j jones said...
Tempting, if only for the cast!

Yes, you don't get Rita Hayworth and Klaus Kinski together in too many movies.

But it's definitely also worth seeing for that crazy crazy ending.