A young woman with an active imagination contacts the FBI when her cat DC (Darn Cat) comes home wearing a wristwatch. She's convinced its the tip-off to crack a bank robbery and kidnapping case that has the authorities baffled. An allergic agent is assigned to "tail" the cat to find the hostage, and laugh (and romance) follows.
Hayley Mills ... Patti Randall
Dean Jones ... Zeke Kelso
Dorothy Provine ... Ingrid Randall
Roddy McDowall ... Gregory Benson
Neville Brand ... Dan
Elsa Lanchester ... Mrs. MacDougall
William Demarest ... Mr. MacDougall
Frank Gorshin ... Iggy
Richard Eastham ... Supervisor Newton
Grayson Hall ... Margaret Miller
Tom Lowell ... Canoe
Richard Deacon ... Drive-in-Mgr.
Iris Adrian ... Landlady
Liam Sullivan ... Graham
Don Dorrell ... Spires
This is one of those movies I saw in the theater as a kid. Simply put, it was hilarious. Maybe it was mob mentality, but virtually EVERYONE in the entire place was laughing uncontrollably throughout the entire film. We're talking a real side-splitter here, folks. I have never laughed so hard at a movie before or since, with the possible exception of another Disney film, "The Absent-Minded Professor" (1961) which I also saw in a theater.
So what makes a good film, anyhow? Fantastic acting? Great plot? Beautiful cinematography? Superb directing? Babes? Well, you can't say it had any of those things. But it DID set out to do what it attempted to do, which was: make people laugh. A lot. And that makes it, in my opinion, a pretty darn good movie.
"That Darn Cat!" can be considered the first in the series of human/animal buddy caper films (see "K9", "Turner and Hooch", "Oh Heavenly Dog" to name a few). And it's also one of the funniest.
D.C. is a clever and precocious Siamese who is forever getting into mischief, but who forever remains one of filmdom's coolest cats. But when D.C. (for "Darn Cat" - though D.C. is also an acronym for something unspeakable in a Disney Film!) becomes an unsuspecting witness to a bank robbery/kidnapping, he finds himself the FBI's most valued informant.
The cast of this of this cool Disney caper is sophisticated, intelligent and frequently hilarious. Hayley Mills, as D.C.'s overly-zealous owner, has finally graduated to womanhood, while still maintaining the girlish charm that captured the hearts of Pollyan-ites and Parent Trappers everywhere. Her lines of dialog are extensive, and though her voice begins to grate after a while, she is both smart and quite ballsy for a teen of the early 70s. Dean Jones as unflappable FBI Agent Kelso manages to display a dignity, wit and charm not usually present in the straight man of a Disney Comedy (Who else would remain calm as the little beast nearly tears him to shreds, covers him with ink, and leads him on three separate chases in pursuit of the elusive wild goose?).
Bad guys Neville Brand and Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin simply ooze evil when they are coolly discussing the potential fate of hostage Grayson Hall. Even now as I watch this movie, I really BELIEVE they would do serious bodily harm to this poor woman, in much the same manner that Roddy McDowell (as a hot-headed and stuffy neighbor) would be willing to de-gut our hero, the cat.
And therein lies our focus - the cat. This brave little feline is the true (and UNBILLED!) hero of the piece. And D.C. clearly is capable of holding his own against overwhelming odds. Even with star talent surrounding at every turn, the writers were smart enough to keep the focus on D.C. and his antics. The assorted chases, the jealous boyfriend, the vengeful neighbor (with his duck dinner clutched firmly in hand), the bickering couple next-door; all revolve around or are in some fashion related to, the actions of the furry little sleuth.
The writing is fun; speaking on a heretofore unseen level of intelligence to its young audience. The result is that children are entertained and clearly understand what's going on, while grownups marvel at the complex doings in a small town that are precipitated by one mischievous kitty and the screwball humans that surround him.
This film is a whopping credit to Disney's talented live-animal handlers and art direction teams. The sets and scenery in this delightful little any-town are realistic enough to make you believe they are a real community, yet spritely and colorful enough to make you want to move there... The drive-in movie theater scene still gives me a good laugh.
In all, "That Darn Cat!" is a delight to view on multiple levels, whether you're all alone, or in a room full of pre-schoolers. For an extra treat, pick up any CD by Disney that has the film's title track by Bobby Darin. The cool loungey tune rings vaguely of Harry Connick Jr. and would probably be right at home coming out of the pipes of Ol' Blue Eyes, Mr. Sinatra, himself.
That Darn Cat (1965) was director Robert Stevenson's attempt to bring the girlish Haley Mills into womanly – if comedic – contemporary grace. She plays Patricia Randall, the impetuous wannabe sleuth and owner of D.C. (short for Darn Cat); a cross-eyed Siamese, sporting a wrist watch instead of a collar around its neck. Turns out the watch belongs to a bank teller who was taken hostage during a daring robbery. Enter FBI agent Zeke Kelso (Dean Jones), a congenial and squeaky clean cutie by 60s standards to whom Pat is immediately drawn. She's too nice to tell him how much she likes him. He's too polite to tell her to buzz off – especially after Pat takes it upon herself to enter the investigation as an active participant.
This is one of those dated Disney comedies that, despite erring on the side of conservative caution and hopelessly virginal good humor, nevertheless hooks its audience with a flair for clean fun and corny vignettes. On this occasion, one of the running gags happens to be that poor Zeke has an allergy of kitties. This presents a problem during the film's pivotal showdown, since he can't seem to get his fits of sneezing under control. The impressive supporting cast includes Frank Gorshin (best remembered as the Riddler on Batman, but here put to good use as Iggy – the bank robber), Elsa Lanchester (as meddling, Kip MacDougall), Roddy McDowall (stuffy Gregory Benson), and Ed Wynn (as Mr. Hoffstedder – a zany watch jeweler). Remade in 1997 to nauseatingly dismal effect, this precocious diversion from the Disney stables in the one to beat, and, with a theme song warbled by no less a singer than Bobby Darin – what's not to love?
The DVD transfer from Disney, for one thing. It's full frame! A very clean picture element, minus scratches and with a color palette that simply glows, is what you'll find on this occasion. Rich, solid blacks, very bright whites and natural looking flesh tones are the order of the day. Also, fine details are very nicely realized and film grain is kept to a bare minimum. The audio, though dated, is natural sounding for audio recordings of this vintage. Bobby Darin's song fares the best, with a sonic spread that will leave you toe-tapping for vintage 60s kitsch.
# The movie was Hayley Mills's last for Disney in the 1960s; the 1997 remake was likewise Christina Ricci's last Disney role.
# The Seal-Point Siamese cats who collectively play the role of DC in this film are all "traditional" Siamese, as opposed to their more streamlined contemporaries. Among fanciers of traditional Siamese, they're affectionately known as "Appleheads".
# First Disney film of Dean Jones, who would become a perennial at the studio throughout the balance of the 1960s and 70s.