Review Date: October 31, 2002
Released by: Box Office Spectaculars
Release date: 8/17/1999
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: N/A
Lucio Fulci is an icon in the world of Italian horror, and fans sadly mourned his passing on March 13, 1996. The once prolific director's work had trickled to a halt by the time of his death. One of his last complete films was Cat in the Brain (AKA Nightmare Concert), a decidedly different type of film from Fulci. Unfortunately, the DVD release of Cat has been delayed several times, leading some die-hard fans to seek out the laserdisc released in 1999 by Box Office Spectaculars. While it's not a stunning piece of home video, right now that LD is the highest quality version available. Meow! That kitten is getting hungry, so let's get to the movie…
Famed horror director Lucio Fulci stars as, well, famed horror director Lucio Fulci. He's on the set of his latest gore extravaganza, but things are not going well. The effects don't look very good and the actors have no clue what they're doing. Off the set, things are even worse. He's having hallucinations and visions that seem to be based on the movie he's making, so much so that he can't even enjoy lunch at his favorite restaurant anymore (perhaps it's not a good idea to serve steak tartare to someone filming a movie about cannibalism…)
Fulci goes to a psychiatrist (David L. Thompson), who puts him under hypnosis. The psychiatrist plants a signal in Fulci's brain that will cause him to commit murder at the psychiatrist's will. I'm not sure why he even needs to do this, as he seems pretty good at murder even without Fulci's help. But Fulci does get to witness the doctor's murders, and isn't completely sure who is doing it.
Fulci's friend/producer Gabrielle (Shilett Angel) suggests that he just needs to finish his movie, then take a much-needed vacation. But we all know it's not that simple, and someone must stop the murderous psychiatrist before our beloved Godfather of Gore is accused of murder for real, not just on celluloid.
This is the cheesiest, goriest, and least coherent of any Fulci film I've seen, and that's sure saying a lot. The plot is threadbare at best, even for Fulci. What this is, is an "insert" film. They made a small giallo mystery, and inserted shots from other films in where necessary. I hadn't seen any of the murder scenes before (I've not seen every single Fulci movie), but they definitely don't look like they were made specifically for Cat in the Brain. They were either taken from another film, or they were just deleted scenes. The Fulci character is often just watching the killings, and of course, you never see the murder act and Fulci in the same shot. Sometimes the scenes match, sometimes they don't. It's like an Italian gore version of Carl Reiner's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
Of course, that's why Fulci fans really enjoy the movie anyway. His movies have always been gory and incoherent, so in some ways, it's almost the definitive Fulci film. Unfortunately, I don't really buy that. To me, it seems more like a movie made to get use out of every extreme gore scene Lucio could get his hands on. At first, the technique works well, but by about 30 minutes in, it's pretty obvious that the murder scenes are just spliced in to the generic plot. Although, had this movie never been made, there's a good chance that those death scenes might never have seen the light of day, so I guess I shouldn't complain.
How true this film is to the real Lucio Fulci is anyone's guess. Wes Craven used a similar concept a few years later in his New Nightmare film, which Fulci rather angrily points out in an interview in the supplement section. Cat in the Brain is also a less subtle take on the topics in Argento's films Tenebrae and Opera, but the words "subtle" and "Fulci" rarely go together. It's the idea of the tortured film director, and what horrible concepts they create. Are horror films the nightmares of neurotic directors, or do the films themselves affect the minds of those who make them?
Most of the Fulci trademarks are here. The gore scenes are extreme, close-up, extended longer than needed, and not realistic at all. The dubbing is atrocious, the nudity plentiful and gratuitous. Not as much "eye violence" though, except for one scene that is intentionally goofy-looking. One definite deviation from the Fulci norm is a somewhat happy ending. This is actually interesting, as the Italian distributors removed the final scenes (Chapters 46 & 47 on this LD) to create a more ambiguous ending, against Fulci's wishes. Interesting that for a director who relied so heavily on depressing endings, he wanted a positive one for such an autobiographical film.
This is the one of the last complete films from Fulci, so it's good to see his final work, as well as any scenes he'd been meaning to use, even if it's all just thrown together like in Cat in the Brain. Fans have been wanting to see this released for a while, especially after the extremely gory trailer was added as a hidden feature on Anchor Bay/Grindhouse's release of The Beyond. Believe it or not folks, the movie is even gorier than the trailer! No trailer could even hint about how much blood and dismemberment there is in this movie.
There have been rumors upon rumors of the DVD release of Cat in the Brain. I'm quite sure it will be available on DVD at some point (and will probably look even better than this LD), but who knows when that day will come? If you have a laserdisc player and you're a Fulci fan, you'll definitely want to search for a copy of this disc. It's not terribly hard to find (I found one less than a month ago, significantly below the original $50 list price), and there's one bonus that will not be on the DVD. More on that later…
Since this film contains scenes shot from various times, the picture here is of various quality. The presentation is approximately 1.66:1, although the closing credits seemed a little trimmed on the sides. Generally, the image is pretty good, a bit grainy and soft at times, and with a few scratches here and there. It's not up to par with Anchor Bay's recent Fulci DVD releases, but it's also miles above EC's older Fulci laserdiscs. Thus, it falls somewhere in the middle on the Fulci scale (If there even IS a Fulci scale).
In a nice touch, both the English and Italian soundtracks were included. However, no subtitles are available, so if you choose the Italian soundtrack, you'd better know the language (like the goofball at the convention in the supplemental section). Neither soundtrack is particularly good. I found the Italian seemed a little clearer than the English, but I don't speak Italian so I'm stuck with the somewhat muddy English track. Those who choose the Italian language should know that the final two chapters have no sound (they were not included in the Italian release). Also, the levels never seemed consistent throughout the film, so I was constantly adjusting the volume. Here's something that could definitely be improved for any future DVD releases.
For a single disc movie, there are a fair number of extra features included. First, you get the notorious trailer, same as the one on The Beyond DVD. Then there is a series of several stills from the movie, artwork, promotional material, Fulci VHS and laserdisc releases, and autographed material. Unfortunately, this is a CLV (Constant Linear Velocity) disc, so most players won't let you pause on a certain frame very well. Make sure you have your jog/shuttle handy, 'cause you will definitely want to see some of this material a bit slower than how it's presented here.
The final supplement is final in more ways than one. It's a video clip of Lucio Fulci taking questions from the fans at the 1996 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. The quality here is pretty bad (often you can't hear the fans' questions), but who could have known that Fulci had little more than two months to live? Still, it's a highly interesting segment, lasting just over 20 minutes with the Italian gore-meister taking several fans' questions. Like any convention, some people ask pretty interesting stuff, others choose to waste the time with inane inquiries. Most interesting was when Fulci made some playfully negative comments about fellow director Dario Argento, and some less playfully negative remarks about Wes Craven. Finally, I was happy to find that Fulci's favorite film from his work is my favorite of his as well. Of course, you'll have to find a way to watch this interview to find out just what movie that is.
And I bet you're wondering about that LD-only bonus I spoke of earlier. Well, Box Office Spectaculars included a fold out poster of the original artwork, all in Italian. It measures 24"x 12" (folded once inside the LD sleeve), and is actually a very nice (if a bit gruesome) piece of art. I can't imagine a poster this size ever being included in a DVD, so if you want that poster, the ol' laserdisc is the way to go.
Cat in the Brain is far from Lucio Fulci's best work, but it's very personal. It's good that this film could be made to sort of sum up Fulci's career. The concept doesn't work all of the time, but it has enough Fulci trademarks to satisfy his loyal legion of followers. While the DVD is held up indefinitely, fans of the Italian gore-master should seek out this laserdisc. It's uncut, looks pretty good, has a nice wealth of supplements, and includes a poster no Fulci fan should be without.
Movie - C
Image Quality - B-
Sound - C-
Supplements - A+
- Running time - 1 hour 33 minutes
- Nor Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Stereo English
- Mono Italian
- Theatrical Trailer
- Stills Gallery
- Fulci live on stage at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors, January 6, 1996