Edit Content

Main Menu

Fonts of Knowledge


Recommended Sites


The power that cat possesses is awesome!


The Cat from Outer Space


Back, way back, in the heady days, when Hollywood produced feline-focussed fare that presented them in a positive light (and no, that recent Spacey movie doesn’t count. Nor those CGI Garfield ones that looked nothing like Garfield). For evidence of the current anti-moggy agenda, look no further than Disney, having remade everything else, failing to furnish a Disney+ update of The Cat from Outer Space with an all-CGI Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4-7 (or Jake).

Jake: Without that collar, I’m just an ordinary cat.

The Cat from Outer Space is predictably low-rent offering, of the cheap-and-cheerful variety that characterised both animated and live-action ’70s Disney output. One might argue they were on to something, as a number of their titles made a huge amount of money for the studio. Little of it did anything for their overall rep, though, one of across-the-board slumming-it quality in the wake of Walt’s wake (he would live on, of course, kind of, as a “chiphead”, per Donald Marshall). This inertia would soon give rise to the “interesting failure” that is the Dark Disney period (from around The Black Hole onwards), before Jeffrey Katzenberg decisively revived fortunes by eschewing core “values” (I know, this is Disney we’re talking about, sultans of darkness) and de-facto G/U ratings.

The picture is consequently helmed by Norman Tokar, who along with Robert Stevenson was a reliably workmanlike (style-less) expositor of the Disney brand for about two decades. Disney initially approached Tokar, even less well-known than Stevenson today among the ranks of leading hit makers, because of his facility with child actors on Leave it to Beaver. The same TV-production-quality approach would continue through the likes of The Ugly Dachshund, his biggest success The Apple Dumpling Gang, Jodie Foster’s Freaky Friday Disney follow-up Candleshoe, and this, his final movie (Tokar died of a heart attack the following year, aged 59).

In some respects, Katzenberg would commit to the template seen here remarkably closely, of using (cheap) TV stars for budget-conscious movies, only with considerably greater acumen and box-office allure (Three Men and a Baby). While the studio was commonly employing career performers (Dean Jones, first finding success on, yes, TV) and career second-winders (Fred MacMurray, in a gambit also later employed by the Mouse House with the likes of Eddie Murphy), The Cat from Outer Space boasts the indefinable charms of Ken Berry (previously Herbie Rides Again), Sandy Duncan (The Million Dollar Duck, and The Sandy Duncan Show) and successive M*A*S*H alumni Harry Morgan and McLean Stevenson. Roddy McDowell plays an industrial spy, having survived an FBI investigation and a recent trip to the Bermuda Triangle, and he is rather foolishly cast against his strengths. There isn’t much for him to play off, registering surprise at Jake’s abilities and being scolded by Mr Big Charlie Olympus (William Prince).

General Stilton: While you and I are talking this very minute, some slimy, green-headed, twelve-legged creep could be crawling under the Whitehouse!

The star is Jake, of course. Or stars, as he’s played by brother and sister Abyssinians Rumple and Amber and voiced by Ronnie Schell. Forced to make do on Earth while he repairs his pretty natty spaceship, Jake encounters a few problems when the military and NASA (of course: damn NASA!) led by Morgan’s General Stilton (the big cheese), secure it in order to tap it for its secrets. Most enviably, he has a magic collar that amplifies brain powers; it glows when he applies his mind, be it via telepathy or telekinesis (Frank borrows the collar one at one point, and he’s able to fly around a hangar bay with it; he also rides a motorbike into the air, a tactic evidently stolen by Spielberg for his superpowered alien making friends with a human while pursued by the military and lifting off on a – unmotorised – bike).

Frank: It’s not propelled by garbage, I know that.

In Jake’s civilisation, the feline form was as far as they needed to evolve. While they may be more advanced than us, these cats still have a hankering for chopped kidney and tuna, and a yen for the carnal delights offered by good old, dumbed-down earth cats. He also isn’t above manipulating sports games in order to secure the $120,000 of gold (about half a million, inflation-adjusted) needed to repair a key component on his ship.

Allison: It’s definitely not one of ours, General.

Berry’s Frank Wilson is up on his alt-science and earns Jake’s respect for his insight into the ship’s energy source, hypothesising that it utilises the whole electromagnetic spectrum for power (“You know where it’s really at? Electromagnetism. We’re loaded with it”; eerily pre-empting 5G there). Frank probably ought to command less admiration for his affirmation of NASA space and how the Sun will one day become a big black hole, but no one’s perfect. Obviously, Jake also prefigures – and possibly provided inspiration to – Jimbo’s all-time box-office topping extra-terrestrial felines, the Na’vi. And, if you’re to credit Corey Goode, there are some super-friendly cat aliens around and about out there somewhere. Well, obviously they’re friendly. They’re cats.

Mr Olympus: The power that cat possesses is awesome!

The Cat from Outer Space’s amiable enough but staunchly undemanding. It’s big set-piece finale, in which Frank and Jake must take to the air in a biplane to rescue Liz (Duncan) from Olympus, goes on for much, much too long, but their various preceding gambling shenanigans, in particular a ruse whereby Liz beats a pool hustler, are good fun. Rather like the in-all-but-studio – but more transhumanist – Disney Short Circuit II a decade later, the picture concludes with Jake being made a US citizen (by future Boss Hogg Sorrell Brooke, no less). He seems unperturbed at the prospect of not returning to his kind, presumably happy to content himself with all that fine Earth feline totty. Hopefully he’ll avoid getting himself neutered.

Our Score

Click to Confirm Your Score
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

Most Popular

What is currently passing for knowledge around here.

  • You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.
    You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.
  • My life has been one glorious hunt.
    My life has been one glorious hunt.
  • Send in the Clones: Donald Marshall and the Underworld
    Esoterica Now
    Send in the Clones: Donald Marshall and the Underworld
  • The Vaccine
    The Q & A
    The Vaccine
  • I thought this was the cousins’ dinner.
    I thought this was the cousins’ dinner.
  • Dark Forces: More on Draco, Anunnaki and AI
    The Q & A
    Dark Forces: More on Draco, Anunnaki and AI