Cinematic Cat-egories

Postcard of Luna Park

I was going to write about The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), because it’s screening tomorrow on TCM and, also, because the latest Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), opens theatrically this coming Friday. Instead, I got stuck on the Inside Llewyn Davis poster. There is something about its composition that I find very striking. To notice it, you’ll have to ignore the top and bottom, which are lame in the ways that most movie posters are routinely lame: emphasizing celebrity names up top, and then all the normal credits at bottom. The middle section, however, is inspired. I can’t stop looking at the cat. There are several reasons for this, and the first is due to the sight-lines, which immediately reminded me of the Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) painting by famous German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. It’s a classic example of a visual construction where all the lines lead to the center. Except in Friedrich’s case the lines of the natural landscape converge on man, whereas with the Inside Llewyn Davis poster, the sight-lines provided by the New York City streetscape converge on the cat. I think this is great because, in my humble opinion, any movie poster is immediately improved with the addition of a feline presence. Since our furry little friends are said to have nine lives, in this post I’ll be looking at how cats have been depicted throughout cinema in nine different categories.

At left the Friedrich painting uses the landscape to converge on the man, whereas at right they converge on the cat while the man even steps off frame.

I’ll start with some pretty darn cool cats from abroad with my first category: the foreign poster. I think it’s hard to beat this Polish one by Andrzej Pagowski for The Legacy (1978), starring Sam Elliott 20 years before he became our friendly narrator in The Big Lebowski (1998).

Dziedzictwo The legacy 1978

Here are two versions of House (Hausu, 1977), with the one on the left mimicking the open maw from above:

house

Too many scary cats? Okay, let’s loosen things up with this foreign version of That Darn Cat (Zatrecena kocka, 1965):

That Darn Cat

Here’s a Cuban version for Desperate Characters, starring Shirley MacLaine (Almas Desesperadas, 1971):

Desperate Characters

I have to admit that I don’t know too much about this next one. The friend who sent it my way tells me it’s for Three Fables of Love (Les 4 verités, 1962), which gets points for having a cat holding poker cards. If the designer had added some beer and put it against black velvet, this “puppy” would have been perfect for framing:

les 4 verites

You can count on the Czech Republic to put more on the table with When the Cat Comes (aka: The Cassandra Cat, or Az prijde kocour, 1963)..

poster

… here’s a more abstract version for the same film, for which we should credit their European neighbors, since this poster is clearly in German:

Wenn Der Kater Kommt

Speaking of Germany, here’s one for their version of Eye of the Cat (1969), followed by the Italian and Japanese version for the same film:

cat - eye of the cat tryptich

Let’s now switch gears in favor of a more domestic and comforting vibe courtesy of this Japanese poster for Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989):

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) Japan_1

Don’t get too relaxed, as we still have some edgy cats coming our way, as can be seen here from this Swedish poster for The Black Cat (1941):

Black Cat (1941)

Speaking of black cats, here’s a cool poster designed by Czech artist Ryszard Kiwerski in 1971 for for Kuroneko (aka: Black Cat, by Kanteo Shindo, 1968)

Black Cat (Czech)

I’ll need some help with this one, which I originally thought was for Black Cat Run (1998), but that’s a TV movie directed by D.J. Caruso from a script from Frank Darabont (who did The Shawshank Redemption). Which is to say, nah, this has to be something else:

Black Cat Run?

My guess is that cats might be more popular in Japan than here in the U.S. because dogs require a lot more open space, need to be walked, etc., whereas cats can be counted on to hang with you no matter how small your apartment, or how bloody disgusting it gets – as can be seen from this poster for Cats Two Eyes that See Death (2011):

 

Cats Two Eyes That See Death

This one concerns a Bosnian poet (Gran Simic) who immigrates to Canada, and it’s a documentary by Zoran Maslic called When You Die as a Cat (2009):

When You Die as a Cat

I’d like to get the 2nd category out of the way: Walt Disney Cats. It’s not that these aren’t also fun and charming, but I only selected three titles because I don’t feel anyone would be surprised by The Incredible Journey (1963), The Artistocats (1978), Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996), or others of this ilk. Let’s face it, most of these posters aren’t that interesting. But, what I will do is toss in one vintage poster for Alice Comedies because it had Walt Disney‘s first recurring cartoon character, a tuxedo cat named Julius, one for That Darn Cat! (1965), along with two versions for The Cat From Outer Space (1978):

Disney ALICE REVISEDthat-darn-cat-film-postercat-from-outer-space-disney-original-uk-quad-film-poster-ken-berry-78-2043-p

1978-Disney-Film-The-Cat-From-Outer-Space-Movie-Poster-disney-36015819-220-329

I’ve picked the third category to counter-balance Walt Disney in an obvious way: X-Rated Cats.

French_KittensFritz the Cat

Technically, Fritz the Cat could do double-duty with the next category: Animated Cats, but let’s go back in time for two from Krazy Kat:

krazy-kat-movie-poster-1936-1020258596krazykat29_ad

Followed by another classic:

felix

Only to skip several generations and fastforward to a very different kind of crazy cat (which technically could have been put in the foreign category):

Tamala_2010_A_Punk_Cat_in_Space_Poster

Okay, so that’s 30 cat posters so far in four categories – almost half-way there. What are the other five categories? Big Cats, Classic Cats, Indie Cats, Horror Cats, and C.I.N.O.‘s (Cat In Name Only). I’ve got even more images for the next post than can be seen above but, for now, I think we can all agree that a cat-nap is in order. As my intermission graphic I’ll post an image that comes from a tumbler site that added a 3-D effect to a picture that I believe was originally conceived for the Toronto International Film Festival (or…?). If any corrections or deletions are required due to sloppy attribution and/or copyright infringement please do let me know, as I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve cribbed freely doing only the most rudimentary searches on the interwebs. More importantly, if you’d like to share your favorite feline-centric cinema poster for inclusion in the next post, please send that my way.

3d cat

 

16 Responses Cinematic Cat-egories
Posted By Benboom : December 1, 2013 1:30 pm

I can’t believe that after all that you didn’t include the Inside Llewyn Davis poster. :-)

Posted By Susan Doll : December 1, 2013 3:30 pm

Of course, having two cats, I loved this post. But, coincidentally, when I was trying to think of a blog topic for tomorrow, my Mom, who is visiting me this month, suggested something with cats! I went in another direction but your post is more fun.

Posted By Andrea Boring : December 1, 2013 3:36 pm

Very interesting post. It is nice to see cats getting their due respect in cinema!

Posted By Emgee : December 1, 2013 9:07 pm

As i love cats, movies and graphic design, this was a great post for me. Thanks for sharing this!

Posted By george : December 1, 2013 10:38 pm

I recently bought a used DVD of FRITZ THE CAT. Guess where I found it? That’s right — in the children’s section.

That FRENCH KITTENS poster would probably cause a riot today.

Posted By Doug : December 1, 2013 10:49 pm

I had no idea that cats were featured in so many films! I love Hausu, and have been Krazy for Krazy Kat forever.
I am ‘owned’ by two cats who may be very photogenic, but would not be good in films as they spend most of their days sleeping.

Posted By Michael : December 2, 2013 12:52 am

These posters are catnip for the eyes…or something like that. Thanks–I love ‘em all.

Posted By MedusaMorlock : December 2, 2013 4:24 am

Wonderful post, Pablo, from one cat lover to another!

I loved that European postcard up top — I have a bunch of those cat cards and they are all hilarious. It looks like these kitties may be watching the feline Charlie Chaplin.

Beautiful images, all of them!

Posted By swac44 : December 3, 2013 5:56 pm

We’re more of a bird bunch in our house (two parrots, so far), but I enjoyed the cat posters. Especially the Disney ones, you’ve gotta love the casts in some of their live-action caper comedies, you won’t see the likes of those again.

Posted By robbushblog : December 3, 2013 8:13 pm

Great post of posters. There was one Disney cat you forgot: Thomasina from The Three Lives of Thomasina. I love old, Disney live-action movies and Thomasina was a great family movie.

Posted By Richard Brandt : December 3, 2013 8:24 pm

I caught THREE FABLES OF LOVE on television decades ago…probably fairly rare, the three segments are two romantic comedies (the second directed by Rene Clair and starring Charles Aznavour and Leslie Caron!) and a third with Hardy Kruger that’s rather grim and surreal.

Posted By Steve : December 4, 2013 1:40 pm

http://d3gtl9l2a4fn1j.cloudfront.net/t/p/original/k3C1Ye7aQJXrPRfVDi4XJTcfHHE.jpg

And all three movies are just excellent in their own way….

Posted By Richard Brandt : December 4, 2013 9:13 pm

Just noticed that one of the stars of FRENCH KITTENS was “Crystal Sync,” which may well be my new favorite pornstar name ever!

Posted By george : December 9, 2013 10:10 pm

Don’t forget TOMB OF LIGEIA …

Posted By pk : December 9, 2013 11:22 pm

Thanks to all for the comments. Rest assured THE BLACK CAT and TOMB OF LIGEIA will most certainly be represented in the next collection of cat-inspired movie posters coming up this Sunday.

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