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Film / Cat's Eye

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Cat's Eye is a 1985 anthology film produced by Dino De Laurentiis, directed by Lewis Teague and based upon short stories by Stephen King (the first two of which are part of the Night Shift collection, while the third was written by King for this movie). Teague had previously directed another Stephen King adaptation in Cujo. Drew Barrymore appears in the film's last segment in one of her earlier film roles.

In the film, a stray tabby cat links together three tales of suspense and horror:

  • Quitters, Inc. — After narrowly escaping a certain rabid dog, the cat hides in a tobacco truck and ends up in New York City. The cat sees a vision of a little girl begging it to protect her from something. Before anymore information can be learned, the cat is picked up and taken by Junk, an employee of Quitters, Inc. Meanwhile, longtime smoker Dick Morrison (James Woods) is persuaded to try the company by a friend to curb his addiction to cigarettes. Dick learns from the company president, Vinnie Donatti, that the company has a 100% success rate in curing addiction. Vinnie explains this is due to the company's rather "radical" methods of persuasion. Dick is to be watched by Donatti's goons 24/7. And every time Dick gives in to temptation, Donatti threatens to torture his family with a variety of horrific methods, each one worse than the last (the cat is seen demonstrating one of these tortures, an electrified floor, early in the story). During the climax of the segment, the cat escapes Quitters, Inc. and leaves New York by hopping on board the Staten Island Ferry.
  • The Ledge — Soon after, the cat finds itself in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It gets a vision from the same little girl it saw earlier, still asking it to help her. The cat is rescued from a busy street by Cressner (Kenneth McMillan), a crime boss and casino owner with a habit for gambling on nearly anything. Cressner then kidnaps Johnny Norris (Robert Hays), a gambler and former tennis star who's been sleeping with Cressner's wife. Stepping into his habit, Cressner makes a bet with Johnny: if he can make his way around the very narrow ledge of Cressner's penthouse, Cressner will give him a large amount of cash and divorce his wife. If Johnny refuses to perform the task, he'll be framed for heroin possession. Cressner also deploys various hazards as Johnny slowly makes his way around the ledge to keep him alert. At the end of the segment, the cat escapes from Cressner's building and jumps on board a freight train.
  • General — The cat jumps out of the train when it reaches Wilmington, North Carolina. It discovers the residence of Amanda (Barrymore), the girl who has been telling the cat to help her earlier in the film. She names the cat "General" and decides to keep it as a pet. Amanda's mother is suspicious of General after having been told by her own mother that cats are rumored to steal children's' breath. She becomes so paranoid of General that she resorts to putting him in an animal shelter and scheduling him to be put down. Without General to protect her, Amanda ends up being endangered by the threat she has been warning General about throughout the film: a miniature troll living in her bedroom wall that has been trying to steal her breath.

It has nothing to do with the manga and anime of the same name.

Cat's Eye contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Species Change: In the short story Quitters Inc the animal they electrocute in the beginning is a rabbit. Well here it's the cat that goes through the painful demonstration.
  • Adapted Out: The short story Quitters Inc has Dick actually giving the company's card to another unhappy smoker some time after his own ordeal, but the film apparently thought that would be too much after all he was forced to endure. In the print version of The Ledge Cressner mentions that he'd offered various debtors of his the opportunity to risk the ledge before in exchange for their slates being wiped clean and only one had the courage to actually make the attempt but gave up after a few minutes.
  • Adults Are Useless: Amanda's parents in the final story, who are oblivious to the troll's existence, while the mother tries to get rid of General in her house. They only believe her after the troll's remains are spotted by them.
  • Affably Evil: Junk shows signs of genuinely invested in curing smokers (or at least interested in the final, successful results), despite his status as The Brute and tells Dick that he doesn't think the amount of weight he gained was too bad when they're saying goodbye to him.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The troll is a vicious, small creature who emerges out of children's bedroom walls to kill them by stealing their breath. While intelligent, it can't talk, but does have humanlike clothing and a small knife for defense.
  • Anthology Film: The three stories in the film are completely unrelated. General the cat is the only element linking them, as he witnesses them during his journey to save a little girl from a troll.
  • Author Appeal: Stephen King is a known cat lover.
  • Badass Adorable: General is a sweet and gentle tomcat, but when a troll tries to hurt his new owner, General turns it into a stain on the floorboards.
  • Balloonacy: During their final battle, the troll tries to escape General by flying away on a bunch of helium mylar balloons. It works only partly and General manages to catch him.
  • Bat Scare: In "The Ledge", a disturbed flock of pigeons takes off while Norris is partway round; startling him and almost causing him to lose his balance and fall off.
  • The Bet: In "The Ledge" segment, a casino owner bets his wife's lover that he cannot walk around the five inch ledge that runs around the 30th floor of the building.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: There's Dr. Vinnie Donatti (a Psycho Psychologist who'll do anything to end smoking), Mr. Cressner (a mob boss prone to Disproportionate Retribution) and a monster tormenting a little girl. Since this is an anthology, they never meet each other or even appear outside their individual stories.
  • Big Damn Heroes: General in the final story.
  • Blackmail: Amanda's mom calls her out on it when she asks to keep General in exchange for keeping the troll's existence a secret.
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: In the final story, a tiny troll lurks in the walls of Amanda's bedroom and steals her breath while she sleeps.
  • The Cameo: Cujo and Christine appear during the film's opening scene.
  • Cats Are Magic: The three stories are tied together by a wandering street cat who is on a journey to save a little girl from a troll-like creature, after he received a psychic signal of some sort.
  • Cats Are Mean: Discussed. Amanda's mother distrusts General because of the old wife's tale that cats steal children's breaths, but General turns out to be one of the most straightforwardly courageous and heroic kitty-cats in fiction. Especially at the end, when he uses a record player to throw the troll into the fan.
  • Cat Stereotype: General is a heroic tabby tomcat who saves a young girl from a troll.
  • Child Eater: The little troll; he kills children by stealing their breath.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: During "Quitters, Inc.", Dick attends a lavish party while trying not to smoke. Unfortunately, Dick's withdrawal causes him to start hallucinating that numerous guests are smoking, offering him cigarettes, and that Donatti is also watching him, all set to "Every Breath You Take" by The Police.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Subverted. At the end, General creeps up on Amanda in an ominous manner, and the sinister music implies he's going to steal her breath. Instead, he gives her a kiss and she hugs him tightly. Roll credits. Originally he was going to steal her breath, but it was changed because the twist would have been less cruel and more nonsensical.
  • Curtain Camouflage: In "Quitters, Inc.", Dick sees a pair of boots behinds a row of coats in his closet. He delivers an impassioned plea about how he wasn't smoking. The next morning, the boots are gone and there are muddy footprints leading away from the closet.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: How the little troll gets disposed of in the end.
  • Death by Adaptation: Cressner - whereas his fate at the end of the story is never stated (though it's implied Norris will push him off the ledge if he does indeed make it back), he definitely falls off in the movie.
  • Determinator:
    • Nothing is going to stop General from protecting Amanda.
    • Johnny while making his trek across the ledge.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: "Quitters, Inc." is not your average clean living agency. It's run by The Mafia, and they are quite willing and able to utilize their standard intimidation tactics to make you quit smoking. You better hope that cigarette was incredibly good, because it'll cost you your wife's fingers.
  • The Dragon: Albert, Cressner's chauffeur, who gives orders to Ducky to follow and abduct Norris, plants drugs in Norris's car and is implied to be the one who killed Mrs. Cressner.
  • Dumb Muscle: Donati's assistant Junk (who briefly tries to chase after the escaping cat rather than help his boss fight Morrison), and Cressner's thug Ducky.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After going through hell throughout the entire film, nearly getting eaten by a rabid dog, electrocuted by gangsters, and run over, the cat finally manages to find a loving home with the family of the young girl.
  • Electric Torture: In "Quitters, Inc.", the punishment for a first slip is a loved one being placed barefoot in a room with mesh floor that is electrified enough to give them a nasty shock but not to seriously injure them. The quitter is forced to watch them dance about in agony.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Cressner betting with two acquaintances over General's survival crossing the street (and expressing glee at General making it despite that it caused a four car pile-up) shows how unscrupulous his gambling tendency is.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Christine will run over humans, but will brake for cats.
  • Evil All Along: At the very end, General creeps up on Amanda; the music suggests that he's evil all this time. Instead he gives her a kiss and cuddles into her arms, providing a rare heartwarming ending from a Stephen King story.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Of the affable variety. Junk bets with Donatti that Cindy will slap Dick when she learns she was just electrocuted as part of Quitters Inc.'s approach to force Dick to not smoke. He's mildly disappointed to lose the money when instead, Cindy gives Dick an understanding hug. Donatti averts this trope, given he's been with clients enough to know what kind of relationship they have with their spouses.
  • Evil Detecting Cat: General keeps hissing at Cressner. He also knows a troll is lurking about. He botches his Detect Evil throw with Amanda's mother who has an Irrational Hatred of him, though, despite his initial reluctance to take the bait in her trap.
  • Evil Is Petty: Cressner does not take kindly to his wife's relationship with Johnny Norris. As a prize for winning the "bet", however, he offers his wife. He never said he'd give Norris all of his wife, though...
  • Exact Words: Cressner prides himself on never welshing on a bet. He promises Norris that if he wins, Norris will have his car cleaned of drugs, a bag of cash, and Cressner's wife. He delivers all three, but what Norris receives is the wife's head.
  • Eye Open: The movie opens with a close-up on one of General's eyes. Serves also as a visual Title Drop.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Donati is a very polite and encouraging man towards Dick who expresses happiness in his successes quitting smoking but makes some very ugly threats with that same jovial expression and shows no signs of being bothered when he has to make good on them.
    • Cressner and his men might sound welcoming to Norris, and reasonable in the deal offered, while also getting along well with each other, but it doesn't change the fact that their forcing a man to go out onto a ledge to a near-certain death and gleefully keep trying to trip him up. And that's not even considering the car crash Cressner causes by coaxing the General across the road, Or throwing his wife's head at Norris after he survives the ledge and specifically wanting to make a show of it.
  • The Film of the Book: The first two stories are from Night Shift. There are some notable changes, but they're largely faithful.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: In "The Ledge", a brutish goon of Mr. Cressner is called "Ducky".
  • Footprints of Muck: In "Quitters, Inc.", Dick checks the closet where thought someone was hiding the night before. The boots are gone, and he starts to think he had imagined it, then he notices muddy boot prints on the carpet leading away from the closet.
  • Forced to Watch: In "Quitters, Inc.", after smoking once, Dick is forced to watch Cindy in the electric cage.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Cressner points out to Johnny that General (named "Sebastian" at the time) liking the latter is a good sign of his luck walking around the ledge. Later, when Cressner runs past General, the latter hisses at him. What kind of sign do you suppose that is when it's Cressner's turn to walk the ledge?
    • As Johnny is about to complete his journey around the apartment, General makes his way back into the penthouse, watching as Cressner tells his bodyguard Albert to "[p]ut it in the shopping bag", which Albert confirms contains Johnny's money. We then cut to see General's perspective, where we see Albert put a cooler next to the bag before opening it.
  • Freudian Excuse: The final segment suggests Amanda's mother's hatred of cats stems from her own mother telling her stories of the evil done by cats, such as stealing their breath. Which happens to be what General is trying to prevent the troll from doing.
  • Gambler Groupies: A woman who appears to be one is in the crowd that bets on the General crossing the road. She is initially unhappy with her boyfriend or husband betting on that but does eventually join him in trying to coax across the general to win the bet.
  • Gender Flip: In the original story, Dick Morrison has a ten-year-old son named Alvin, rather than a daughter.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Mostly played straight through the movie, but at the end, the ground-up troll gibs are presented in technicolor glory to the audience. Ewww.
    • One notable straight example is Cressner's fall from the high rise; right before he hits the pavement, the scene cuts to a shot of General watching underneath a nearby car. The parakeet's corpse after the troll kills it is also never shown directly to the audience.
  • Goshdang It To Heck: "Oh, fiddlysticks!" (Junk's comment when the cat escapes).
  • Graceful Loser: The gamblers who bet against Cressner that The General won't be able to cross the street, and urge him to cross when it's dangerous, don't seem too upset or angry at either Cressner or the cat once he does make it across.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: The troll finally gets a little Nightmare Fuel, after it mauls the parakeet to death, and goes to suck out Amanda's breath.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: The basic premise of Quitters Inc. For each of the first three times they catch a client smoking (nine times in the book) they inflict some horrible punishment on a member of the clients family. Dick's wife is subjected to electrical shocks after he ends up smoking a cigarette. and while he's in the waiting room, there's an anguished man waiting there whose wife is let out after having apparently been raped over his third infraction (based on how he wasn't Forced to Watch, as was the case with the electric shocks, and how her clothes looked a little torn).
  • Ironic Echo: In "The Ledge", "Just keeping you on your toes."
  • Irony: In "The Ledge", the same pigeon that previously pecked Norris's ankle not only comes to peck Cressner's ankle when he's on the ledge, but the latter meets his demise when he falls off trying to kick it away as well.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: The main method of Quitters Inc., is to enforce this trope on their clients as harshly as possible. All to get them to quit smoking. First they torture their loved ones with electrocution, then proceed to mutilation with further "transgressions". If the smoker still can't quit, Quitters Inc.'s management "give up" on their clients.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The mysterious managers of Quitters, Inc. - in fact, right at the end it's revealed that they have gotten away with their intimidation and mutilation many times before.
    • Cressner's henchman Ducky helped abduct Norris and sadistically takes part in trying to make him fall off the ledge for a while but isn't present when Norris turns the tables on his boss and Albert.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • One of Cressner's friends mentions having a father who cruelly believed cats should be put down once they outgrow their kitten phase. She's also not above helping Cressner's other friend win a bet by coaxing General to cross a dangerous street.
    • Cressner also does his fair share of this, forcing Johnny to move around the 30th floor on a 5 inch ledge, "keeping him on his feet" with an assortment of horns and fire hose, and rewarded Johnny for his troubles with Mrs. Cressner's decapitated head.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Johnny gets to repay Cressner for his cruelty by forcing him at gunpoint to undergo the same ordeal: moving about the five inch ledge. Needless to say, Cressner doesn't share Johnny's luck.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Amanda, who falls in love with General at first sight. Averted with the mother, who's the exact opposite, just plain paranoid about a cat in her home, waiting for an opportunity to get rid of the cat and practically reveling in capturing him and taking him to get euthanized.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Amanda's mother fanatically feels she has her daughter's best interest at heart when she sticks by her paranoid beliefs about General being trouble.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Cressner. He runs into the exact same pigeon that his victim did, tries to kick it, and falls off the ledge - landing on the same horn that he'd thrown out the window previously.
    • The troll as well; after gibbing Amanda's pet parakeet to frame General, he meets his end by getting gibbed himself — on screen.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Mostly averted, but the leftovers of the troll, after it was ground up in the fan weren't pretty.
  • The Masquerade: In the "General" segment, the parents discover that the troll is real when they discover his remains. They choose to keep the incident to themselves and ask Amanda not to tell anyone at school, knowing full well that no one would believe them.
  • Meat-O-Vision: In "Quitters, Inc.", Dick attends a party where he has a bizarre hallucination of everybody smoking in very strange ways, and sees two women as giant packs of cigarettes.
  • Mistaken Identity: The troll frames the cat after mauling the parakeet to death, so he would have an uncontested shot at stealing Amanda's breath.
  • Mixed Metaphor:
    Donatti:You'd better listen to the big picture, Mr Morrison.
  • My Beloved Smother: Amanda's mother is a self-righteous and paranoid Control Freak who seeks to get rid of General at any cost.
  • Mythology Gag: In "The Ledge," a Penthouse issue is prominently seen after Johnny has gained the upper hand. The July 1976 issue was where the original story was published.
    • At one point, we see Sally Ann reading in bed. The book? Pet Sematary. No wonder she doesn't trust the cat.
    • The name of the school Dick's developmentally disabled daughter goes to is "St. Stephen's School for the Exceptional."
  • Neverending Terror: The segment featuring "Quitters, Inc.", an anti-smoking group run by The Mafia from which, once you become a member of, can never leave. They will watch you forever, you will need to follow their instructions on clean living to the letter, and if you ever so much as think of disobeying an order, they will torture your family, force you to watch, and they will charge you for the torture's implements (like electricity) on their monthly membership bill. Or start dismembering them bit-by-bit, starting with the fingers. And if you're crazy and/or stupid enough to continue smoking after a few demonstrations, well... they "give up" on you.
  • No Matter How Much I Beg: "Quitters, Inc." is a version of this played for terror. When someone becomes a member of this group, it's literally a lifetime membership. There is no paying them off, there is no asking them off, there is no begging them away. The group, led by The Mafia, will help their members quit smoking... even if they literally have to threaten to torture, maim, and kill them.
  • Off with His Head!: Also in "The Ledge", a character is beheaded offscreen - Cressner's wife. Delivered as promised.
  • Only Sane Man: In the last story, Amanda's father. He might not believe his daughter's claims of a monster, but he's handling the whole situation better than his cat-paranoid wife.
  • Pet the Dog: Cressner bets on General surviving crossing traffic and takes him back to his apartment to be fed when he does. He later shows no regard for General and almost steps on him during his petty torments of Norris. This comes back to bite Cressner when General causes one of his goons to fall over during his escape, allowing Norris to gain the upper hand.
  • Plummet Perspective: On "The Ledge", with a cornet.
  • The Precarious Ledge: The second segment, "The Ledge", is built around this trope. A man is kidnapped by his lover's powerful and jealous husband for planning to run away with his wife. The husband makes the protagonist an offer: If he can navigate the minuscule ledge outside his top floor penthouse all the way around the building, he will divorce his wife, if not, he will frame the man for drug charges. Never said anything about his wife being alive though.
  • Properly Paranoid: Though only Amanda truly believes that the troll framed General for killing the parakeet, her father finds it suspicious that General somehow got such a large slash mark, while the mother, who is conversely and plainly The Paranoiac towards cats, dismisses him when he brings it up. After they discover definite proof of the troll's existence and realize that they would have lost their only child if it weren't for General, they let Amanda sleep in the parental bed as a precaution.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Quitters Inc is an entire business of this. Their methods on smokers only apply to their clients.
  • Pungeon Master: Ducky shows a moment of this when he kidnaps Norris (although it's downplayed because it's implied to be a regular catchphrase he uses before punching someone).
    Norris: Hey!
    Ducky: It's for horses, sometimes for cows. Pigs don't eat it because they don't know how.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The minitroll in his Gross-Up Close-Up.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: After Cressner goes back on his word and reveals that he has murdered his wife, he tries to buy his way out by offering an enraged and gun-toting Norris millions of dollars. Norris has a much better plan for revenge — make Cressner the same offer to walk around the ledge and gain his freedom as the one he offered him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The second Johnny kills Albert and trains his gun onto Cressner, General takes one look at the penthouse's open door and then flees.
  • Self-Deprecation: Dick Morrison on "Quitters Inc" is seen watching The Dead Zone, and he remarks "I don't understand what this movie is about... I don't know who writes this crap."
  • Smug Snake: Cressner gloats endlessly on how he's bested Norris and torments him for kicks during his dangerous walk around the ledge.
  • Spanner in the Works: General trips up Cressner's gunman, allowing Johnny to get the gun and the upper hand.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Amanda's parents, who are absolutely unaware of the troll threatening her daughter and that General came to their home to protect her.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: In "The Ledge" segment, a crime boss with a fondness for gambling knows that his wife is having an affair with another man. He kidnaps the man and makes him an offer: if he successfully navigates the very tiny ledge outside his penthouse apartment, he gets his wife and a briefcase full of money; if not, he'll be framed for drug possession. The protagonist wins the bet after several close calls, only for the boss to give him the money and his wife's head. This enrages him so much that after taking out his guard, he makes the boss the same offer to navigate the ledge in exchange for his life. He's not so lucky and falls to his death pretty quickly.
  • Troll: Aside from the literal one, Cressner does some things that he considers funny in order to goad Norris into slipping and falling, such as blowing a horn loudly.
    Cressner: Just keeping you on your toes!
  • Villainous Breakdown: After being a Smug Snake throughout the second segment, Cressner starts to panic and cry as Johnny forced him on the ledge, while cursing his hatred for Johnny.
  • Visual Title Drop: Opens with a tight closeup of...a cat's eye.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Donati and Junk are willing to torture and rape the loved ones of smokers in order to motivate them to quit, and even kill the ones who can't quit the habit. They seem happy when their customers do manage to quit, but any who try to sneak a smoke finds out that they're not bluffing.
  • Wham Shot:
    • One of the punishments of Quitter's Inc. is cutting a finger off of a loved one of the smoker. At the end of the segment Morrison is having drinks with some friends, and notices that his friend's wife is missing her little finger...
    • After Johnny finished his task in "The Ledge", Cressner confirms he'll hold up his end of the deal. Johnny's car has been cleaned of any drugs, he is being presented with a bag of money, and he even gets Cressner's wife... which he confirms by kicking the bag, causing her head to spill out onto the floor towards Johnny.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: A character played by James Woods complains "Who writes this crap?" while watching David Cronenberg's adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone on TV. King wrote the screenplay for Cat's Eye.