Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Cat from Outer Space

I originally saw this in the theater with my best friend Rocky Parks way back in 1978. Rocky was a cherubic looking boy, with light blonde hair, who would, on occasion, ask me to squeeze his winky. I wonder whatever happened to him.

Back then Disney knew how to make a decent family film. One that is cute without being saccharine sweet. One that actually tries to entertain, not shove an "important" lesson down the viewer's throat. This was before tie-ins to Happy Meals and there is not one fart joke in the entire movie.

The title sums this one up pretty well. It's about a cat from outer space.

Suffering from technical difficulties, Jake makes an emergency landing on Earth in a farmer's field. The military immediately seizes his craft and takes it back to base. They're trying to figure out where it came from, who was piloting it, and how it works. They don't seem to notice the cat who is invariably lurking around.

Jake befriends an unorthodox scientist named Frank (Ken Berry) to help him repair his flying saucer so he can make his rendezvous with the mother ship. They've only a few days to do it, and they have to dodge the military and a corporate spy (Roddy McDowall) who are trying to muck things up.

When it's discovered that a gold circuit needs to be replaced on the ship, things become dire. Frank does the math and figures they need $120,000 worth of gold to get the job done. But where are they going to get that kind of cash? Hustling pool, of course! Jake uses his psychic powers and space age glowing collar to rig the game and win the money.

With the ship repaired and Jake about to blast off, Frank's girlfriend (Sandy Duncan) is abducted by the corporate spies. They demand Jake's space age glowing collar for her safe return. They've a few games of pool of their own they want to hustle.

So it's up to Jake and Frank to save the day.

The film, as a whole is entertaining, though it does drag a bit near the end. The whole final chase sequence with Jake piloting a ragged biplane in pursuit of the bad guys' helicopter didn't seem at all necessary. That particular subplot could have, honestly, been left out altogether and the film not suffered any. Otherwise it's a decent Disney entry, not a classic mind you, but fun nonetheless. Plus, if you like cats, it's pretty high on the cute factor.

Directed by Norman Tokar • G • 1978 • 104 minutes

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