The Cat From Outer Space

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The same year that Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) came out Walt Disney Studios unleashed their own science fiction adventure film about an extra-terrestrial visitor called The Cat From Outer Space. The Cat From Outer Space reimagines That Darn Cat (1965) as an E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) style adventure with an Absent Minded Professor (1961) adjacent human protagonist. The Cat From Outer Space may not be an entirely original idea, but it did beat Spielberg to his famed flying bicycle scene from The Cat From Outer Space by five years.

The Cat From Outer Space is typical, boilerplate Disney filmmaking. The film is lugubriously paced, brightly lit at all times, and features some pretty antiquated special effects (even by the standards of the seventies). What should by a seventy-five minute romp for the whole family is executed as a tedious bore that doesn’t seem interested in pleasing anyone. Some regular Disney players like Hans Conried lend some energy and life to the proceedings but to little or no avail.

The dramatic momentum of the film rests solely on the shoulders of former Mayberry R.F.D. star Ken Berry who does most of his acting opposite of a cat. Berry is certainly charismatic enough and can evoke the same lovable ol’ dad quality as Fred MacMurray but his scenes with just the cat are too long and too wordy. The Cat From Outer Space is at its best when Berry gets to share the screen with Star Spangled Girl (1971) Sandy Duncan and/or McLean Stevenson. When the banter is fast, the stakes low, and the hijinks absurd is when The Cat From Outer Space begins to click.

The subplot involving Roddy McDowall and a Bond villain type of criminal organization is just one too many plot threads for such a flimsy little movie. Disney had been making this same type of convoluted, slow moving, and ugly to look at live action picture for twenty years when The Cat From Outer Space came out. In all that time their formula had never changed. These films like The Cat From Outer Space are essentially B-Movies aimed at kids because Star Wars (1977) had yet to prove the economic power of the children’s film and the type of budget those kinds of movies could command.

Today The Cat From Outer Space is primarily of interest to three parties: those who grew up watching The Cat From Outer Space, those who study the history of Disney Studios, and the more passionate cat parent. Anyone who fits within these three categories should waste no time joining Jake the cat (voiced by Ronnie Schell) on his adventures on Earth. Otherwise there isn’t much at all to recommend this lesser Disney picture.