Frank Lucas (Kent Smith) is wandering through the home of a deceased rich guy. Lucas is an appraiser. He is there to document the contents of the home. In the basement he finds the man’s collection of Egyptian relics. One in particular is a sarcophagus, mummy and all. The mummy is wearing an amulet around its neck attached with a heavy gold chain. The amulet is of a cat head with emeralds for eyes. The amulet is solid gold.
Joe Sung (Keye Luke) is a thief. While Lucas is documenting things with a tape recorder Sung steals the amulet. Unknowingly Sung releases a curse put upon an ancient cat goddess. The mummy turns into a cat and kills Lucas by scratching his jugular vein. Sung takes the amulet to the shop of Hester Black (Gale Sondergaard) looking to pawn it.
Hester owns a store called The Sorcerers Shop but she is not above acquiring a stolen artifact from time to time. Hester kicks him out of the shop. The thief leaves behind his briefcase. Hester gives it to her assistant Sherry Hastings (Renne Jarrett). The cat, looking for the amulet, follows Sherry home. Finding that Sherry doesn’t have the amulet it hypnotizes Sherry and has her jump off her balcony and commit suicide. With Sherry dead Hester needs to hire a new assistant. Rena Carter (Meredith Baxter) is new in town and applies for the job.
In the meantime Police Lt. Marco (Stuart Whitman) is assigned to Lucas’ murder case. Since Egyptian artifacts play a part in the murder, Marco hires Professor Roger Edmonds (David Hedison) to consult on the case. Edmond’s specialty is archeology and not Egyptology but beggars can’t be choosers. Sherry’s body is found and autopsied. The Deputy Coroner (Milton Parsons) determines that Lucas and Sherry were drained of blood. The murders continue. Marco and Roger are on the hunt for a murderer that kills like a cat and drains its victim’s blood like a vampire.
“The Cat Creature” was released in 1973 and was directed by Curtis Harrington. It is a made for TV supernatural horror movie written by Robert Bloch.
Since it’s a TV movie, there’s not a lot of blood, guts and gore. There also isn’t a lot of sex and violence. Director Curtis Harrington wanted to make the Hester Black character a lesbian, and there are some subtle indications that she could be. Out and out lesbianism, however, was shot down by the television network’s standards and practices. This was 1973 remember. In 1973 there was no such thing as a lesbian. At least on TV. Anyway, the network sent Harrington a threatening letter and would not allow any references to homosexuality. Harrington was a little miffed about it so, in retaliation; he added a midget prostitute character instead.
Robert Bloch said that at one point he was informed that the script was twelve minutes too long. It took quite a bit of editing to get the screenplay to run on time. When the rushes were viewed the film then ran twelve minutes too short. Since most of the sets had already been torn down, Bloch had to work out how to put twelve minutes back into the film.
The film is intended to be a tribute to the Val Lewton horror films of the 40’s. Specifically “Cat People” 1942 and “The Curse of the Cat People” 1943. The movie also has an appearance by Kent Smith. He starred in both Val Lewton films. He’s the first to get killed.
Gale Sondergaard is also in the film. At one point Gale had been blacklisted as a result of the Communist witch hunt created by the Committee on Un-American Activities in the forties. She didn’t do any films for the next twenty years. In addition to Gale other actors from the forties and even fifties were also on tap for guest appearances. Actors like John Carradine, Keye Luke, Stuart Whitman and of course David Hedison and Kent Smith.
The movie isn’t stellar, and it certainly isn’t Lewton, but it is fun to watch and it’s nice to see that the stars from a bygone era were still appreciated in the seventies.