That Darn Cat!

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Bankrobbers Dan (Neville Brand) and Iggy (Frank Gorshin) have taken cashier Ms. Miller (Grayson Hall) hostage and are hiding out in a boarding house. It’s there that the intrepid feline D.C. stumbles upon the hostage situation. D.C. becomes an informant for G-man Kelso (Dean Jones) who hopes to bust the case wide open with the help of D.C.’s human Patti (Hayley Mills). But can the duo crack the case when a meddling neighbor (Elsa Lanchester), a demented duck hunter (Roddy McDowall) and a surf crazed teenager (Tom Lowell) keep getting in the way?

That Darn Cat! (1965) is classic live action Disney. On boldly lit sound stages a small town is built and mayhem ensues. The gags are as absurd as the muddled plotting as the same jokes are played out again and again. That Darn Cat! is a film sustained by the charms of its ensemble cast rather than the laughs, thrills, and romance of the script.

That Darn Cat! is a well polished work of mediocrity. Disney was really churning out live-action family films at an alarming rate in the sixties. Their brand was inoffensive and catered to pre-teens. The best films of this ilk feature some artistry of production design or a show stopping set piece. For That Darn Cat! those sequences are those where the film follows D.C. on his 9PM outings. The camera follows D.C.’s hijinks and immerse the viewer in the world of a feline.

Director Robert Stevenson helmed That Darn Cat! for Disney. Stevenson was Disney’s go-to director for the best of his live-action productions. Stevenson oversaw such notable Disney productions as The Love Bug (1968), Kidnapped (1960), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Old Yeller (1957), and Mary Poppins (1964). In many respects the Disney brand was formed and perfected by Stevenson over the course of fifteen years worth of collaborations.

That Darn Cat!, while not the most popular of Stevenson’s films for Disney, has remained popular enough too merit a remake in 1997. It may not be as groundbreaking as Mary Poppins or as emotional as Old Yeller, but That Darn Cat! is a lot of silly fun. It holds up as children’s entertainment.