Possibly the worst of the Disney animated features. I’ll have to see Robin Hood to be sure, something I’m not really looking forward to. Plot: A rich old bitch makes her will leaving all her money to her four cats, a mama and her three annoying kittens. After the cats are dead, the money would go to her butler, Edgar. Now imagine Edgar, overhearing this, doing the math. Now imagine yourself thinking it all over …
You’re not ruthless enough? Well, I am. I will admit to certain prejudices here, such that this movie had almost nothing of interest to me. I don’t much care for cats, especially ones voiced by Eva Gabor, who I have no use for. In fact I can’t stand the whole Gabor clan. I don’t much care for rich bitches. I despise the idea that a crazy rich bitch can leave a fortune to a goddam dog or cat. (I am a dog lover, but that’s ridiculous.) Brother, those cats would have been dog food real fast if I were Edgar. Which is, of course, what he sets out to do. The helpless, abandoned felines are left in the country and guided home by O’Malley the alley cat (Phil Harris), with pretty boring adventures along the way. They meet some annoying geese, and spend some time with an annoying cat jazz band singing an embarrassingly bad song called “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat.” (I don’t.) By 1970 the Disney people’s idea of jazz was about 30 years out of date, and besides, we were all listening to rock by then. As if that weren’t enough, the movie is introduced with Maurice Chevalier, my least favorite French singer (I only know two others) singing the theme song.
Is there anything good here? Well, not the animation. It is dull and unoriginal. Not the music. Not the plot. Not the characters. The only ones I liked were poor old Edgar, and two French country hound dogs who—inexplicably but humorously—speak like Arkansas hillbillies. The Bloodhound is voiced by Pat Buttram (Gene Autry’s old sidekick), and the Bassett hound is George Lindsey (Goober Pyle). They have several slapstick encounters with Edgar, and they are the high point of the movie, which isn’t saying much.
And I have several times been amused to point out some feel-good silliness when it comes to interactions between animals in animated movies, such as the idea that Tramp would be a faithful father to Lady’s pups, or that Simba the lion in The Lion King would be happy to eat grubs and worms—which apparently have no feelings. Here the cats seem to eat nothing but cream. Okay, it’s animated comedy, it’s for kids. And when O’Malley and Duchess are seemingly “married” here, nobody asks where the first litter came from. Run over by a Peugeot, or simply ran off? Well, I’ll let that one go by, too. But I have to put my foot down when it comes to the “best friend” of these cats. It’s a mouse. I’m afraid that’s too much suspension of disbelief. Cats eat mice. End of story. If you don’t believe me, ask Tom and Jerry.