Lucio Fulci left his mark in 1979 with Zombie, a film that many quickly dismissed as a Dawn of the Dead rip-off, but they would be wrong. It’s a cash-in, duh. Dawn of the Dead hit the scene hard and made an impact in the horror world. The imitators came out by the truck load and everyone wanted some of that sweet zombie cash, kinda like how it is today. Anyway, Fulci, although never fully getting the respect that he demanded, still made a name for himself that would sit along the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Having already done a few giallo and sexploitation films himself, he decided to venture further down this gory path in horror films and made other greats like City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery and what some consider his magnum opus The Beyond. Being labeled “The Godfather of Gore” (a nickname he shared with Herschell Gordon Lewis), he was targeted by critics as being sadistic. Crews often said he was unfair toward the women and his films were looked at by normal crows (you know, non horror fans) as being cruel and mean and that only a sick mind could create such a thing. What’s a director to do?
Take all the negative things people have ever said about you and make it into a joke. A dark, but hilarious joke. And it may be a joke that not everyone will get and that’s ok. For those of us that do, we get a good chuckle and it’s like we’re patting the director on the back and saying, “I feel ya.” For him, he gets to crook a little smile for his accomplishment. Those who ridiculed him and misjudged him are the butt of the joke without knowing it. Perhaps I am over analyzing what most look at as strange, gory horror film with comedic elements thrown in for good measure. But there are plenty of elements in Cat in the Brain that could be over analyzed. We won’t go into them all, but it may be a much deeper film in disguise. Could that mean we are the sickos, so desensitized to the violence that we don’t notice? See, there I go again.
The film literally opens with a cat in a brain. Fulci’s brain to be exact, as he’s typing away at his typewriter, coming up with gory demises for characters, because as we all know this is the only thing horror directors think about. Oh, that’s right… Fucli not only wrote and directed this piece, but he stars in it as well! The film then cuts to a scene from one of his other films, Touch of Death (another great dark comedy horror film) wherein a man is cannibalizing a woman. Fulci seems to be thinking about this while shooting his new film and continues to think about it even more when he tries to order at a restaraunt. The thought of consuming steak tartare repulses him and he leaves. His appetite now gone, he heads home only to be continuously haunted by visions of violence. His neighbor cutting wood with a chainsaw soon becomes blood soaked and coming after Fulci, as the director takes an axe to red paint cans. Is our good director losing it his mind?
Have no fear, Dr. Egon Shwarz is here! Having recently attacked a female journalist, tearing off her clothes and nearly sodomizing her because of a scene he recently filmed for a nazisploitation film, Fulci checks in to the local shrink to get to the bottom of it. However, Dr. Shwarz has plans of his own. With Fulci in a hypnotic state, the doctor tells Fulci that all of the violence he sees in his head he will believe not only that it’s real, but that he is also committing it. Geez, what a dick! And all because he is having marital problems and hates women! Hey, wait a sec… could this be a parody of how people are seeing Fulci? Perhaps. Either way, the plot has gone into full gear and the madness is about to begin. With Fulci not being the patsy, Dr. Schwarz manages to take a number of victims while wearing crazy eyes and the creepiest grin you will ever see. A decapitated hooker is found near the set on a night that Fulci walked home, but that’s not the only case. More and more bodies turn up near the set and Fulci begins to vividly hallucinate more frequently and much more extreme. Is he really losing his mind and committing the murders or is it the doctor? Well, it’s not so much of a mystery as it is a joke.
So, is all the footage from his other films part of the joke, because the Italians were notorious for reusing footage from other movies to pad out run time and save money? Well, you make that decision. The film also includes a lot of aforementioned gore and some nudity that may seem like it was inserted pointlessly, like when Fulci is staring out his window and he seems a woman in leggings topless and feeling herself. Along with the murders of women, Fulci was possibly taking jabs at everyone calling him misogynistic. You know, I’ve been going on about Fulci in the lead role and have yet to comment on how good his performance really is. Of course, the English dubbing is, well, it’s what you expect from Italian horror films. Let’s leave it at that.
Previously available on DVD, Grindhouse Releasing has released it on Blu-ray for the really sick horror fans out there. The first thing I noticed is that the film has a somewhat softness to it and to be honest, I didn’t notice a big – or any – difference in video quality from the DVD. Not to turn you off from this release seeing as it has plenty to offer. The slip cover is cool and glows in the dark and the Blu-ray case itself is reversible. There are plenty of other features too, like in depth interviews with director Lucio Fulci and Brett Halsey (star of Touch of Death), the Italian theatrical trailer and best of all, in traditional Grindhouse Releasing fashion, a bonus CD soundtrack!
Your unfamiliar horror fans or average movie goers could argue that the film is part glorified clip show, using bits and pieces from some of his other works, Touch of Death and Ghosts of Sodom and the rest is typical misogyny from a sick and twisted old man, filled with nothing but grotesque violence toward women. They would be right, in their own sense, but I think they would be wrong. I would argue that it’s a clever, possibly misunderstood man satirizing himself for the sake of good humor and having a blast doing so. Either way you look at it, it’s a fun experiment and I think the humor and parody work where they are supposed to while the gore isn’t too extreme as his previous films, it is pretty over the top and possibly played for laughs. Cat in the Brain, also called Nightmare Concert, is a fun little experiment from Doctor Fulci that I would say won’t be entertaining to your average horror fan, but those of you looking for something a little more twisted, check this out.