By JOHN BILLINGER
Tiger Media Network
So the other day I logged onto Disney+ and went to find some obscure live-action movies for a laugh. It’s no secret that Disney has produced a lot of stuff that has flown under the radar since their films’ initial release. And I sure found some that I’d never heard of, such as “The Cat from Outer Space” or “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.” One I found that caught my attention was 1965’s “That Darn Cat.” I heard of this film before, that it was good, and decided “OK sure, I’ll watch this tonight.” I did.
“That Darn Cat” centers around a Siamese cat named “DC,” who after 9 p.m. leaves his owner’s house and roams the town. He gets inside a house that’s being used as a hideout for two bank robbers (played by Neville Brand and Frank Gorshin) who’ve kidnapped a woman. The woman hides a message for help inside DC’s collar, and it’s discovered by his owner (played by Hayley Mills). She correctly deduces that it’s a cry for help, and gets into contact with an FBI Agent named Kelso (played by Dean Jones). Kelso is assigned to investigate this in an attempt to locate the robbers and the woman. The only way they can think of to end the case is to literally follow the Cat while it’s making its rounds. Hijinks ensue.
With a premise like that, this could’ve easily been some corny/lame movie along the same lines as some of Disney’s other mostly forgotten live-action family comedies of the time. I’m pleased to report, however, that this is actually a whole lot better than one would initially think after only seeing the title.
The first thing to mention is the characters. They’re all incredibly likable. I only mentioned four of them in my synopsis, but there are also the side characters. They pretty much cast a bunch of character actors to play them, and they all are incredibly memorable and fun. Sure, one could easily cut out characters like Canoe (basically me back when I was in high school) or the Nosey Neighbor (played by Elsa Lanchester), but you wouldn’t have the same film. They give it charm.
The main cast is also a lot of fun. They all do a great job of making sense of an absolutely ridiculous situation. The two bank robbers, on the other hand, play it completely straight. It’s like they’re from some serious crime movie or something. Probably the most intense live-action Disney villains from this era. As a side note, one of their lines “I’ve got six little friends, and they can all run faster than you” was later quoted by Tarantino in “Dusk Til Dawn.” The titular Darn Cat also turned in a good performance. They could’ve easily just waved a toy in front of this animal to keep its attention, but they did a great job training him. And it makes for some great situational comedy.
Speaking of which, this is a comedy. Again, they could’ve easily just had it be corny or lame, but it’s actually a very clever comedy full of wordplay, slapstick, situational humor, and stuff involving the cat (because let’s face it, cats are naturally pretty funny). There were plenty of moments where I was laughing hard, such as the scene where Kelso is attempting to get a pawprint from DC, or the part where they’re chasing the cat across a Drive-In Movie Theater.
If there’s one complaint I do have, is that it does feel a little long at times. The film’s runtime is nearly two hours, and there are some parts that are a bit slow. The good news though, is that it frequently cuts to great scenes. So it balances out pretty frequently.
Overall, “That Darn Cat” is a darn good show. It takes a premise that could’ve been easily lame, but it actually does something with it. With good characters and good comedy, you’ll have a good time. If you are interested in checking it out, I should warn you that there was a remake starring Christina Ricci made in 1997. That version is generally regarded as terrible, but I feel like there’s probably a decent chance of those in my generation being more familiar with that one than the original. If that’s the case (or if you haven’t seen either), skip the ‘97 one and go to the ‘65 original.