Saturday, December 31, 2011

Because of the Cats (1973)

Young, rich cats on the prowl for trouble

Well before the shadowy frat club in "The Skulls" there was a little mystery/crime/thriller from Holland in the earlier part of the '70s that shared a number English actors called "Because of the Cats." The story, which was part of a larger series of crime novels from the early '60s, in itself is simple enough, though how it's presented is somewhat elusive and enigmatic--with the audience never sure of where it's going or what's to happen next. In between it gives way to a number of different titillations and shock, to the point of being somewhat edgy for its day for a culture that was still getting used to racy cinematic assaults such as "Dirty Harry" and "The French Connection." Our crime fighters weren't always knights in shining armor as the waning flower generation seen.

A gang of young vandals with pantyhose stocking caps surprise a middle aged couple in their upscale home and take turns raping the woman in front of her panic stricken husband. These aren't your normal criminals doing thuggery but instead dress in suit and tie and speak like proper and educated students--as if they're out to a charity dinner instead. An inspector from Amsterdam named Van Der Valk is sent in to investigate the callous crime and from a series of clues gets lead to a click called The Ravens where a share are heirs to wealthy families in the most prosperous area of the Netherlands called Bloemendaal. From there, another group called The Cats are whispered about, along with a rich, well-spoken gentleman who you're never quite sure about under his overly charming demeanor. The inspector is determined to put a stop to them before the crimes escalate beyond control but finds himself with little evidence, oblivious but protective parents and tight mouthed suspects that are bonded to their friends through a secret cause.

The tone is a little jumpy in places: one moment somewhat upbeat and humorous, then in the next atmospheric and serious. The music is somewhat misplaced at times, with a theme song that's akin to a parade marching band with horns and drums. It can be slapped overtop of a scene whether or not the underlying part matches. This is missing some of the heart-racing chase scenes in car or on foot that are a staple to crime thrillers. Though this European film is quite liberal with sex and nudity, whether it be with forceful or consensual, or be it showing full frontal of men and women--more so on the latter. The inspector even drinks on the job and has a good time with a high class prostitute that gives him information that he couldn't have pumped out otherwise--killing two birds with one stone, he's a resourceful guy.

There are a hand full of memorable scenes that make this more than your run-of-the-mill crime story, from a group of women seducing a man in the ocean that includes full body underwater shots, to some scenes of cat carnage where innocent kitties are brutalized for shock value--not for real though! The film has a fairly quick editing style for the '70s when it was common to have more of a looser flow throughout. This is still caught somewhat in between where it has rapid cuts in one area and then becomes unnecessary to carry on with another for so long, especially towards the latter half. Some of the editing is cut so close that it doesn't make this as challenging of a mystery as it could have been. No one wants a picture to hold their hand, but it can dive into the middle of a scene without a sense of direction till sometimes well after the fact. It makes it so the audience are steps behind the detective instead of steadily moving at the same time for more of an engaging experience. This is still largely unpredictable as some of the clues come in the form of red herrings to throw one off.

This came out at a time when traditional religions were questioned and at the same time new factions were forming with experimental ideas and philosophies. This mixes self-awareness practices of body and mind with susceptible, spoiled-rich modern youth in the '70s. Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should do it. They're an anomaly in that they have both responsibility and appear like standup citizens but at the same time are giving in to over-the-top vices at the expense of others. The two require a delicate balance and things can get out of control when it's tipped. In a way it shows how far some youth have lost their morals and scruples when growing up pampered and never having to earn what they were given with blood and sweat. Not to mention the parents have all of the money one could wish but little time to spend with family. The youngsters have no sympathy, regret or perspective to what they're doing. They mindlessly follow their click to be part of something but have no definable future from being stuck in the now. "Because of the Cats" was an interesting take on the crime genre that doesn't include the usual hip, slang spoutin' street thugs.

Rating: 7/10

Director: Fons Rademakers (Village by the River, Mira)
Stars: Byran Marshall
Link: IMDB

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