Bite Size: Night Of 1000 Cats (1972)

What do you do when you’re comfortably ensconced in the ranks of the idle rich? When you’ve run out of places to travel and cool stuff to buy, how do you fill your days?

For Hugo (international knockabout Hugo Stiglitz), the answer is ride around Acapulco in a delightfully retrofuturist personal helicopter and hover over beautiful women trying to work on their tan. Sometimes this obnoxious display of minimal boundaries and maximum personal wealth even scores him a date. He ever so graciously escorts them to the inherited monastery he calls home, where the only thing larger than the house itself are the comically oversized cognac glasses he offers guests.

Hugo’s hunchbacked servant, Drogo(Gerardo Zepeda) keeps the candles lit and the delicious dinners served. When sex and swimming get boring, Hugo escorts his conquests to view a special “collection” in the basement, and the mewling gets hellishly loud on the soundtrack.

Writer/director René Cardona Jr. was a second generation schlockmeister, as his father had had some success exporting the likes of Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy during the end of the golden age of Mexican cinema. Like father, like son in the sense that 1000 Cats was clearly strung together on a tiny production budget, and the 62 minute runtime endlessly padded with every frame of furniture, helicopter flight and felines the crew had managed to shoot. This is exactly the sort of plotless meandering that only drew in any recognizable names because of the promise of a nice vacation. The beautiful babes in peril include busty Argentinian cabaret star Zulma Faiad and 60s sex kitten turned exploitation mainstay Anjanette Comer.

The audience never really learns why Hugo has become a homicidal Hugh Hefner, smoking a pipe in a dressing robe and playing chess with his manservant between his daily routine of stalking, peeping and pick ups. There aren’t any plot events that provide any real rising tension, despite the ever lengthening list of women who disappear in the vicinity of his massive compound. Anajette Comer’s character has a husband she’s clearly cheating on, and a daughter she leaves behind for a home visit with Hugo, but even that silver of background only gets touched on in two very brief scenes.

Low budget creature features often run camp even in the best case scenario, but house cats —there are maybe a few hundred, far from the 1000 strong army promised in the title— are perhaps some of the trickiest possible beasts to make scary. Even at their snarling worst, they often just read peevish that someone has delayed too long to set down their kibble. In this particular case, their hunger is built into the plot as the reason they’re dangerous, but the scariest thing about Night Of 1000 Cats is how roughly the human actors handle their animal costars. It’s a shame that a lax attitude toward animal abuse is the biggest lesson René Cardona Jr took from his adventures in making films for the larger global market. If you’ve seen the title, the poster, and the trailer, you’ve seen everything worth viewing here.

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