Cat in the Brain (Lucio Fulci, 1990)

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by dwatts, Jul 17, 2008.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2002
    Messages:
    16,580
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Crashed
    :D I haven't posted a review here for a bit, since they've been going elsewhere. But what the hell, this site is prime Fulci territory!

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Perennials are comforting. They come, they flourish, and they go, only to return with a predictability that suggests they never left in the first place. There’s something reassuring about it, that even after we’re all long gone, these perennials will appear once again, into the ages.

    And perennials come in all kinds of guises. Mention of the word usually conjures up mindscapes of flowers, trees, and sundry plant life. Yet we could just as easily apply the term to our beloved movie message boards. You want perennials – how about animal violence in cannibal films? What about the virtues (or dangers) of rape revenge in I Spit in Your Grave? And what of the constant battle with censorship, of what we should and should not be able to see, and the effects it has upon our psyche?

    The latter point is probably one of the best perennials, because it’s something horror fans can join together on. We don’t all agree on the importance of the subtext of Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave, nor even of their quality. But we can usually all come to quick agreement that censorship is bad, that films don’t really hurt people, and that banning things only makes us want them more. It’s a rallying cry we can all rejoin.

    What with the Video Recordings Act (VRA), the backward views of the German censors, and decades of pre-cutting to appease even a possible whiff of scandal, you could be forgiven imagining that calls for censorship - and the scientific communities grenades lobbed, blindly, into the fray - as being a modern concern, something rising out of the 80’s with the arrival of Video Cassette Recorders (VCR). Of course, we’d be quite wrong. The quote that started this review is taken from a review of Haxan, the classic movie from Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen. It was written and published on November 9th, 1922. Perennials.

    Many films have been censored over the years, and many Directors were caught up in the VRA witch-hunt (nice tie in with Haxan, huh?) Among them Italian supremo, Lucio Fulci. Lucio was so many things, but he’ll always be remembered as being one of those crazy Italians where too far was never far enough. In the latter films of Fulci’s career, narrative took a back seat to brain busting and eye gouging.

    Fulci made 52 films, yet it’s for a core set of four or five that he’s most remembered. After all, who could forget Zombi 2, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and House By the Cemetery? Of course there are others that garner more favourable critical reviews, and even sport superior technical prowess, but it says something about the horror audience that it is for these films that Fulci will probably always be remembered.

    Fulci would have been well aware of the constant debate about censorship, the effects his movies (and the movies of others) was supposed to have on an impressionable audience, and how indeed the films might well be the product of a broken, twisted, mind. As a horror film Director of gorehound delights, Fulci was very much open to claims that, indeed, he really was that sick.

    Yet Fulci’s reaction to these concerns was to be a little different from other Directors. He laboured on making the films he knew his audiences wanted, even when making them was actually beyond the abilities of his technical staff or their budgets. And he finally went full circle, and wrote his own assessment of this perennial debate, perhaps just so he could flip the finger in the final frames.

    Few films in Fulci’s oeuvre divide audiences as much as Cat in the Brain (AKA Nightmare Concert). Is it the product of a hack, squeezing every last cent out of material that wasn’t worthy in the first place? Is it the death throes of a talent squandered? Is it lazy, cynical, weak and scornful of its audience? Or is it, in fact, quite brilliant?

    The facts are well known. Cat in the Brain is packed to the rafters with gore sequences. I lost count of the beheadings, the eye mutilations, and stabbings; around every corner a body, in every room a crime. With what can safely be surmised as zero budget, Fulci reused many sequences from two of his own films – The Touch of Death and The Ghosts of Sodom, neither of which are exactly classics in his filmography. Going further, he even includes material from the films of others: Bianchi’s Massacre, Luccheti’s Bloody Psycho, Lenzi’s The Hell’s Gate, Simonelli’s Hansel and Gretal, Martin’s The Broken Mirror, and Millioni’s Fuga Daila Morte. One gets the impression that Fulci had more than half his film made before he even conceived of the idea.

    So question is, is this creativity gone dry, or a brilliant final flourish? You won’t find solace from reviewers, least of all from me, most write this off as being a pretty poor effort, and even somewhat embarrassing. Even Stephen Thrower, biography of the great man and author of “Beyond Terror, The Films of Lucio Fulci” isn’t impressed, stating: “Arriving at the lowest ebb of his career, Cat in the Brains pretensions only show what’s lacking in an otherwise honourable career.”

    Like others, I’ve read a lot about this film, long before actually seeing it. I’ve experienced latter day Fulci, in all its low-budget mayhem. I knew that the beauty and craft was diminished, and that something as threatening yet gorgeous as that final scene from The Beyond was long passed the man. I expected the worse.

    And yet, such is the beauty of that one liberating God given right bestowed upon each of us, an opinion. For I can have my own and don’t have to answer to anyone for it. Sometimes I can explain why my thoughts run contrary to popular (or majority) opinion, and other times I can’t. But whatever my abilities to unravel the thoughts in my head, I sure do have an opinion about it, and I sure do know what I do and do not like. I really liked Cat in the Brain. No, I loved Cat in the Brain.

    First and foremost, if you’re a Fulci fan – as opposed to simply being a fan of Fulci’s films – this one will bring joy to your excitable horror mind. Fulci himself is in just about every scene (absent only when he’s borrowing scenes from other works). We see him on (an admittedly fake) film set, driving his car around the countryside, at home, walking the streets. Forget the cameos, in this Fulci is the star! This alone was enough to have me transfixed, to see the man walking around, sitting in restaurants. It’s like a special feature from a super-duper DVD release, home movies found on super-8 in Fulci’s attic.

    The questions the films deal with are obvious, and yes, perennial. We have a film Director – Fulci of course – haunted by visions of gore from his own films (hence all the flashbacks to previous movies). He visits a psychiatrist whom he hopes can save him from mental decay, only for the doctor to let him down when he turns out to be a killer straight from a giallo. Only now the doctor, in the guise of the killer, has someone to blame for his indiscretions – a famous film Director of horror films!

    To map the film to perennial debate, are these gorefests the product of a sick mind (is Fulci insane?), can the various studies ever really find an answer (the visit to the psychiatrist), or are the studies and doctors just as mad in their assertions (the doctor is the killer)? And in the end, just how seriously does Fulci take any of this?

    Yes the fine editing of previous Fulci outings is gone – but then, this film is more about splicing than editing! Yes it’s strange to hear music cues from films like The Beyond used in a different context. Yes, you’ll recognize scenes from other films and think – what’s that doing here? But in the mind-f*ck world of Fulci logic, what could be more appropriate than this as a fitting coda? Fulci is reliving his inglorious past, just as we, his audience, do the same time and again on video and DVD. Look, this film is rough, make no mistake. It’s also pretty damn cool.

    And you know what, these are revisits to classic gore moments, and what’s wrong with that? If anyone can pirate a work, why not its creator? We know the action here is recycled, but it was actually quite fun first time around, it’s even more fun laid side-by-side, repeated over and over, and popping up every five minutes to break the dark monotony of watching Fulci moan.

    You think this is a failed film because it’s not very good? Or that it’s not worth seeing because the gore effects are stolen for films that didn’t work in the first place? Well, perhaps it’s some consolation to know that Fulci agrees with you. Watching a video playback of one of the gore scenes Fulci is heard to mutter: “No, no – it doesn’t look real to me yet!” How perfect is that, the audience had been thinking the very same thing!

    You see, the one key ingredient every movie must offer is that of being entertainment. There are all kinds of entertainments – laugh-out-loud funny, cerebral, gorefests. As long as you leave a film having been engaged, and having had a good time, then it’s worked. And man, did Cat in the Brain ever work for me.

    The film is also not without great humour. Perhaps the best line, once again, falls to Fulci. Watching a clip of Nazis raping peasant girls he says: “Sadism, Nazism…. Is there any point anymore?”

    It’s all just so perfect. As is the final sequence, as the film essentially ends as Zombi 2 starts, with a boat moving across the sea, body parts strewn. The name of the boat? Perversion!

    I’ve read how poor this film is. I’ve read about the incompetence, the laziness, and even the sadness that some people have felt watching it. I have to be honest though, it's all that, and I didn't mind at all. In fact, I rejoiced at it all. This is pure and simple gorefest fun that no-one should miss. Yes the editing is poor, yes the lighting and camera work suck, yes the characterisation is weak. But it’s stacked wall to wall with gore – albeit it reused gore. We have scenes that look like outtakes from City of the Living Dead, a shower murder referencing Hitchcock’s Psycho, and a bloody cut lip used in love-making we’d see again in Argento’s The Stendahl Syndrome. And we have Fulci, Fulci, and even more Fulci. With a Fulci cherry on top. You’re never, ever, bored.

    Of the weighty questions, the film does nothing but mock. The final scene is Fulci giving a finger to the whole thing. And good for him. If anyone could do it, then Fulci could. Hell, he’d earned it. He doesn’t have the answers, and doesn’t pretend too, but he has an opinion, and he was probably beyond caring at this point – when even the film industry was abandoning him.

    Don’t let anyone put you off buying this film, because you’re really missing out. A Fulci collection without this is like Venus De Milo without arms.

    You go figure it out.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2008
  2. Lucio Romero

    Lucio Romero Member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2004
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Location:
    The Marsten House in spring, Monroeville Mall in w
    Great review. I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen this one yet, only due to the fact that I've been waiting for THE definitive DVD release from Grindhouse, it's been on the upcoming DVD list at Fangoria for the last 5 years:(. If I'd have listened to the naysayers (including Stephen Thrower in his Fulci book) I never would have watched The New York Ripper which I ended up loving and wasn't as violent or boring as I'd been led to believe.


    LUCIO!!!!
     
  3. X-human

    X-human I ate my keys

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2003
    Messages:
    7,956
    Likes Received:
    690
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Illinois
    Easier to grope?

    I've got the Grindhouse LD of this, I should really watch it some time.
     
  4. HAEMORRHAGE

    HAEMORRHAGE If he dies, he dies

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2004
    Messages:
    1,589
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    The Westcoast Amityville AKA Vegas
    I've been waiting for an R1 release of this for a LONG time.
     
  5. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2002
    Messages:
    16,580
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Crashed
    Sadly this is a title that hasn't had any semblance of a definitive DVD yet.

    This is the copy I watched:

    [​IMG]

    Amazon.co.uk

    Which'll set you back $10 or so.

    It's full screen but looked open matte rather than cropped. Extras are text based only (other than some trailers).
     
  6. KR~!

    KR~! The Apocalyptic Kid

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2001
    Messages:
    5,466
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    In Hel's Womb
  7. bigdaddyhorse

    bigdaddyhorse Detroit Hi-on

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2001
    Messages:
    12,508
    Likes Received:
    56
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Under a rock
    I have the German Astro release and love this flick.
    The picture isn't great, but it's watchable. Non-anamorphic and a weird aspect ratio. Box says 1.66, but it's more like 1.45 or 1.4, almost unnoticable bars on my 4:3 tv.
    It also has the comparison of the footage used from the other flicks, back to back with the original unedited footage.

    Since I had and still haven't seen the films this "borrowed" from, it may have affected my view of the film. As it is, I love it. Would I still love it if I recognized all the cut-ins? Can't say. I'm keeping this disc until a definitve version comes out. I don't think an interview or 16X9 picture is quite enough to make me double dip for a film I watch once every 4-5 years. (That may not sound like love, but with so many movies in my collection and more being made/found everyday, not even my all-time favs get played much more than that.) It's among my all-time best blind buys for sure (profiler says I got it off ebay in 2003, that's either dead-on or close enough).

    Here's the best cover scan I could find from a quick search.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2008
  8. Crystal Plumage

    Crystal Plumage Dig me..but don't bury me

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Messages:
    5,029
    Likes Received:
    9
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    The Court of the Crimson King

Share This Page