Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"That Darn Cat" Is Purr-ty Sharp

Cleveland Press December 27, 1965

"That Darn Cat" is all about how a cat makes monkeys out of a couple of hoods and the FBI. It is a mixture of whimsy and slapstick with the patina of slick high gloss that comes with the best efforts from the Walt Disney studios.

The ingredients that will spell success for Disney's holiday offering this year are a modicum of suspense and adventure, an animal that is smarter than people, a touch of romance and loads of wide ranging humor.

The title role is an energetic feline belonging to sisters Hayley Mills and Dorothy Provine. The cat, known as D. C. for darn cat, returns from one of its nocturnal prowls with a lady's wrist watch around its neck. The watch could belong to a bank teller kidnaped by a couple of holdup men (Neville Brand and Frank Gorshin).

On the theory that it is, Miss Mills, a highly imaginative sort, checks in with the FBI, picks out an agent (Dean Jones) presumably on the basis of his looks. She has, she tells him, "information about one of your crimes." Jones, in turn, is allergic to cats.

THE FBI PROCEEDS to work with its four-footed lead (dubbed informant, and photographed and paw printed) in a manner that suggests that this is one script that J. Edgar Hoover never okayed.

Through alleys and over fences they go and what they display in energy they soon lack in dignity. "Whither he goes you go," one agent is ordered.

The best bit of the chase -- agent Jones following D.C.through a drive-in theater. "Hey, there," shouts the manager," you can't walk in without a car."

THE FBI WORKING with an undercover cat isn't much for almost two hours worth of film but "Darn Cat" spaces out the chase with little asides involving an assortment of off-beat characters played by some of the best performers in the business.

There is Elsa Lanchester as a nosy, snoopy, troublemaking neighbor; and William Demarest as her suffering spouse who disconnects his hearing aid when she shouts at him. Roddy McDowell is cast as Miss Provine's stuffy, would-be boy friend.

As for the crooks -- Neville Brand has played so many that he's type-cast and Frank Gorshin acts like a takeoff on the Richard Widmark roles of a few years back. Ed Wynn flutters through a bit part as a jeweler.

ASIDE FROM THE cat Miss Mills manages to hold most of the attention in spite of all her talented co-stars. She connives to keep the FBI interested in the cat while Miss Provine gives a second look to the agent.

If all of this seems contrived, the pace of "Darn Cat" is fast and variable enough to hold audiences even through parts that could only be described as cute.

Kids and teens will love it and adults will not be as unhappy at sitting through it as they might suspect.