Retro Review: The Cat From Outer Space

A UFO captained by a cat-like extraterrestrial (Ronnie Schell) is intercepted by the U.S. Military.

Synopsis: A UFO captained by a cat-like extraterrestrial (Ronnie Schell) is intercepted by the U.S. Military.

Review: Given that everyone is in Lockdown and we have a little more time to burn than is normal. I figured I would use some of the time to take a look at some of the fun films that I grew up watching in the 1970s and 1980s, and Disney + launching in the UK last week gave me pause to re-watch a movie that largely went underappreciated here in the UK due to the fact that it hardly got shown during holidays on the TV. The film in question is a science fiction fantasy by Disney called ‘The Cat From Outer Space’, which was likely made on a fairly modest budget for 1978 given that effects wise it isn’t up to much, but character and fun it has in abundance. I also fondly remember seeing this one while on holiday in Rhyl at the Cinema.

The Story

When a UFO captained by a feline-like extraterrestrial (Ronnie Schell) is forced to land. His spacecraft is intercepted by the U.S. Military. The pilot, who is a cat going by the human name of Jake is forced to seek out help from a human that he considers smart enough to have a chance of keeping up with the science required to help him in his predicament. Thus he turns to an eccentric scientist called Frank Wilson (Ken Berry) who works on the military base where Jake’s craft has been taken.

As the two break into the hanger where Jake’s spaceship is being kept. They are followed by hapless crook Mr. Stallwood who has been hanging around the base in order to scope out advances in military science that he can sell to his boss. After examining his ship. Jake the cat comes to the conclusion that he needs some Org 12 or the human equivalent of it, which is gold. In order to make his ship go again, Jake needs $120.000 worth of Gold, which he will use his collar’s technology to shrink down to the new component that his ship needs. In order to get the gold Frank enlists the help of his friend who is a compulsive gambler and using the physics bending powers of Jake’s collar, they fix the odds in their favor so they can win sports bets. However, Jake gets a little distracted by a she-cat and winds up losing one of two of the bets.

One thing leads to another and Liz (Sandy Duncan) gets roped into playing a pool game with the odds massively stacked against her, which maximizes the amount they’d win by betting on her. But playing games to win is not all that this motley crew has to deal with. Having seen the cat talk and the powers of Jake’s collar Mr. Stallwood (Roddy McDowall) is after them in order to take the cat and his collar to his boss, and the U.S. Military is after them too.

The Acting

Ronnie Schell does a terrific job of voicing Jake the Cat and uses a voice that you can easily imagine a sophisticated feline to have. Incidentally, Schell also plays the part of Sgt. Duffy in the movie. Playing the role of Frank is Ken Berry who makes a good fist of it in a role that you could easily imagine Dick Van Dyke taking on or any number of Disney regulars from the late 70s. Berry does a fine job and makes the role his. The love interest in the movie is Liz who is played by Sandy Duncan who was an up and coming star at this point in time. Much of the comedy of this movie comes from Franks’s attraction to Liz and how he tends to goof things up whenever she is around and Sandy Duncan’s down to earth girl next door demeanor works wonderfully.

Overall

‘The Cat From Outer Space’ is a film that is very easy viewing if you are willing to take the leap and suspend your sense of reality for an hour or so and go with the fantasy. Jake the cat is a pretty cool character and one that I’m surprised Disney never got more out of considering that the film ends with Jake choosing to stay on Earth.

Special Effects on the movie are pretty basic in that it is nowhere near to ‘Star Wars’ levels, but the visuals of the film are not where it’s at. It’s the crazy story, which is more of a caper that really wins you over.

When ‘The Cat From Outer Space’ was released it was up against big summer blockbusters like ‘Superman’, ‘Grease’, and ‘Watership Down’, which would have all have had bigger budgets so it never really stood a chance. In fact, it would be great to see Disney reboot this one and do it on a bigger budget and see what happens. I’d even get my cat to Audition if she can manage to keep her paws off the set.

Overall. A fun science fiction tale that can be enjoyed by all the family and one of a great many hidden gems on the new Disney +

8.3
The Cat From Outer Space
  • Story
    8.5
  • Acting
    9.2
  • Visual Effects
    7.1
  • Incidental Music
    8.3

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: ian@scifipulse.net
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