Hayley Mills and Dean Jones star in this film, based on the book Undercover Cat by The Gordons. I absolutely love Mills in almost everything she is in, but this film does not do a whole lot for me. My main issue with it was the length. This approximately two hour film could easily have been an hour and a half. Some of the scenes dragged out for an extended period of time and in my personal opinion, should have been shortened.
That Darn Cat! is directed by Robert Stevenson, who also directed a handful of fantastic Disney films such as Mary Poppins, The Love Bug (another Dean Jones connection here), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Darby O’Gill and the Little People. That being said, it was not as if Stevenson had no idea of what he was doing. And I’m not saying the film was bad either. It just seemed to leave a lot to be desired.
A few of the main actors in the film seemed irritating to me. Perhaps this was done on purpose so as to not be taken seriously. For instance, Canoe (Tom Lowell), Ingrid (Dorothy Provine), Gregory (Roddy McDowall), Mrs. MacDougall (Elsa Lanchester), and Iggy (Frank Gorshin) all seemed annoying throughout the duration of the film. On the other hand, Patti (Hayley Mills), Zeke (Dean Jones), Dan (Neville Brand), and Mr. MacDougall (William Demarest) were all fantastic. I remember Demarest the most from a wonderful episode of The Twilight Zone. And for those of you who do not realize this, Elsa Lanchester portrayed The Monster’s Bride in the 1935 classic The Bride of Frankenstein.
Credit must be given to the wonderful Sherman Brothers, who wrote the theme song, which is the same title as the film. It appears as though Bobby Darin sung the version in the film and Bobby Troup sung the version on the soundtrack. (Note: If anyone knows differently, please post a comment so I may be informed. Thank you.) This tune captured the film very well. It was not serious or hysterical. It was cute with a slight comedic edge which almost seemed to channel a bit of The Pink Panther theme.
A couple of quick facts thanks to the wonderful website which is IMDb…this is Dean Jones’ first Walt Disney film. He starred in Disney films throughout the 1960s and 1970s including Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Love Bug, among many. Another interesting fact is that this was Hayley Mills’ final Disney film; the re-make of this film, made in 1997, was Christina Ricci’s final Disney film as well.
My favorite scene in the film is the catastrophic events which take place at the drive-in theatre. First of all, I have an unhealthy obsession with things of the past. Although these theatres still exist, they are extremely unappreciated and rarely attended to anymore. Therefore, to see individuals of the 60s enjoying their weekend at one is heartwarming to me. The scene which takes place is purely laugh out loud fun, especially the raucous which unravels once Darn Cat (DC for short) is swatting at a moth which is silhouetted on the screen during the surfer film. After much spilling of food and drinks, as well as bouncing on vehicles, it is film magic.
My favorite character in the film was the jewelry store owner, played by Ed Wynn. Unfortunately, his screen time in this is very short but wonderful. He is best known for voicing the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and starring as the lovable Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins.
A few friends asked me what I thought of this film and my answer was simply “Cute.” It is not as if I will never watch it again. That Darn Cat! is the type of film that I would not mind having on in the background while I go about my day. It is not a horrible film. It is pure 1960s cheesiness. If you love Hayley Mills and scheming felines, I would say it is worth seeing at some point.
My Rating: 2/5 stars
You know, that fellow has the most attractive way of putting his foot in his mouth.