I’m not a cat person. In fact, I’m slightly allergic to them. Cats are somehow able to sense this. When I come into a house with cats, they come to me. They brush up against my pant leg guaranteeing that I’m going to take a part of them home with me. Disgusting creatures. I don’t know that I could live in a house with even one cat, forget about the house we have in our film today. Get ready to meet an eccentric millionaire playboy who happens to be a serial killer with a house full of felines in 1972’s The Night of a Thousand Cats.
Our story centers on a millionaire named Hugo (Hugo Stiglitz) with a taste for expensive things and beautiful women. He likes flying around in his personal helicopter and picking up ladies to bring back to his home, an ancient monastery. He’s even got a hulking bald mute named Dorgo (Gerardo Zepeda) for a butler. As the film opens we see him bring his latest beauty back to his place, only to strangle her with her own scarf before pickling her head in jar, and grinding the rest of her into a meal for his massive collection of felines. All this gruesomeness happens off screen, but we do see him tossing the meat to the kitties like a softball pitcher.
Soon, Hugo begins scouting for a new lady. His procedure seems to be to fly around in his helicopter looking for pools with ladies sunbathing. The woman he zeros in on this time is even married and has a daughter, but that doesn’t seem to deter him. A few other murders happen as Hugo begins an affair with the woman. However, when he decides it’s time to turn her into cat chow, the cats end up turning on their master.
The Night of a Thousand Cats comes to us from Mexico and is sometimes known as Blood Feast in this country. Various versions exist, including one released stateside in 1974 clocking in at 93 minutes. The version I saw, however, was a paltry 63 minutes. Still, I found this bizarre film to be quite entertaining. It gives off a strange American Psycho sort of vibe, but, well, with more cats. Truthfully, the cats really don’t factor into the story all that much. They’re just an interesting novelty, really, when it comes to creating an unusual way for the killer to dispose of his victims.
It’s a little bit hard to properly evaluate the lead performance of Hugo Stiglitz (who also served as a producer on the film) since the dialogue is dubbed. He doesn’t come across as terribly menacing, but there is something about him. His demeanor and the monotone nature of the dubbed dialogue combine to give the character a coldness that makes for a strangely appealing villain. I also was weirdly entertained by Gerardo Zepeda as Dorgo. His performance here seems to indicate he may have studied at the Tor Johnson school of acting. You can’t out-Tor Tor, but he puts in a good effort.
Though the premise of this one is extremely goofy, it does manage a few creepy moments. Though, the creep factor comes more from Hugo’s methods for romancing the ladies than from the horror aspects of the film. After all, this is a guy who flies around in his helicopter, hovering over pools in the backyards of fancy houses. You’d think that racket would’n’t last long, but strangely it charms many of the bikini-clad residents of the city. Creepiest, though, is a handful of moments involving the young daughter of one of Hugo’s conquests. The first time Hugo flies his chopper into their yard, it’s the young girl who spots him and waves. Shots of the little girl are intercut with scenes of the hungry cats. I can only deduce that Hugo is thinking how girl might make a nice snack for his pets? There’s another sequence later where he takes the girl for a little ride in his helicopter without mommy’s knowledge. It’s a little bit too skeezy for a what is, for the most part, a fairly silly little movie.
There are a few slow moment to film when it just seems to meander for a bit. However, the final payoff, when our killer finally gets what’s coming to him, is satisfying, though very predictable. Ultimately, the film is a little too goofy to be scary, but still made for a freaky fun experience…even to someone allergic to cats.