Who first concluded that cats and carnality go together? Sure, the ever-present slang for female genitalia seems to suggest a clear-cut link, but someone had to come along initially and make the first derogatory determination that a woman's privates resembled a feline? Why not a squirrel, or a hedgehog? Why, particularly, a cat? Whatever the rationale, 'pussy' has become such a commonplace label for labia (majora and minora) that it has developed an entire set of vernacular variables all its own. Call a guy said colloquialism and you're bond to get boxed in the chops. Refer to your pet in such tainted terms and maiden aunts will be appalled while grade schoolers snigger like someone just farted.
Now, as part of their June release schedule, Something Weird Video has dug deep into its crypt of corporeal pleasures and come up with a pair of outrageous offerings, each one dealing differently with the flummoxing feline demarcation. First up is the oddly named Kitten in a Cage. A half-baked whodunit that never really delivers the denouement, or the collection of clues, typically required by the genre, its strip show centerpiece is one of the few reasons to stick with this informationally incomplete entity. On the metaphysical flip side of the storyline dynamic is the more or less plotless The Girl from Pussycat. Oh sure, it centers on a gang of fierce femmes determined to pull a bank robbery. Unfortunately, a whole lot of fake fornication gets in the way of the narrative necessities. Viewed through the veil of vice that more or less motivated the making of these films, Pussycat parlays its softcore into a true raincoat crowd pleaser. Kitten, on the other hand, is about as arousing as an overflowing litter box.
A cop car pulls up to the local asylum. Seems one of the patients has pulled a runner, and she has to be caught before…well, it's never explained. Julie's not sure why she was locked up in the loony bin, and after she's picked up by Ted and taken to the city, the reason for her hospitalization…well, it's never explained. Dropping Ted like the roadside plot convenience he turns out to be, Julie calls up her beefy boss Brian. She wants his help in finding out…well, it's never explained. While staying in big Bri's palatial manor, Julie is attacked by a masked man with a syringe. The motivation behind such an injection-based molestation…well, it's never explained. Realizing that even his own home is not safe, Brian carts Julie off to his seedy strip club where he hopes to hide the on the lam lass with lesbian dancer Kelly. During her pasty and panties performance, Kelly is heckled by a male impersonator. She responds by throwing ice, angry because…well, it's never explained. Eventually Brian hooks up with an insurance investigator who, in one fell mono-logistic swoop, tells us that Julie knows where a mermaid statue is located, said figurine carrying $1.5 million in precious gems. Soon, it's clear that an ex-bartender of Brian's has gotten out of prison, plotted to drug Julie with sodium pentathol (thus the trip to the booby hatch and the needle attack) and discover the whereabouts of the jewels. Yet even with said clarification, and a final act foot chase in pursuit of the loot, we're still not sure why Julie is considered a Kitten in a Cage. It's never explained.
Like an existential experiment in purposeful plot manipulation, Kitten in a Cage starts off like a half-assed Hitchcockian mystery, and then gets even more muddled from there. In the hands of first time filmmaker Richard MacLeod, this nonsensical narrative which may or may not center of a cadre of stolen gemstones is all clues and no clear solution. Part of the problem here is that most of the dialogue sounds made up on the spot. Characters will have phone conversations where none of the back and forth banter matches up. Julie will ask for an upfront account of the past 24 hours while Brian is delivering a dissection of his own interpersonal alibis from years ago. A typical exchange goes something like this:
"I want to know what happened?"
"You want to know what happened?"
"Yes, tell me the reason why this happened?
"You what to know the reason why this happened?"
"Yes, I want an explanation."
"Okay. There is no explanation."
HUH??? MacLeod must have thought that by keeping important information away from the viewer, there'd be a level of suspense and foreboding to drive this otherwise tame thriller. Yet the truth is, without a viable storyline to hang our hats on, we slowly loose interesting in this sexless snooze fest. This director can't even manage interesting erotic eye candy. In one of the movies more disquieting moments, Julie is convinced to take a shower. Now, while that may not seem like something to fret over, actress Miriam Eliot was apparently none too pleased about taking a breast exposing bath, so the producers shaved a female gorilla (all except the arms, obviously) and let this hirsute honey loose in the stall as Julie's corpus copycat. The ruse doesn't work. As liquid gets lost in the massive matt of arm and lower back hair, we speculate why such a folliclely full female would be substituted for the more or less hairless lead. Like the rest of this movie, the answer never comes.
Perhaps the only reason to wade through all this suggestion and speculation is the sight of exploitation Empress June Roberts in the all together. A staple of some of the genres most interesting and iconic offerings, her presence alone makes Kitten a carnal delight. Wearing her hair in a Marlo Thomas like flip and sporting a sensational set of natural breasts, June was always quite visible, but almost always never heard from in her various grindhouse roles. That's because when she spoke, her voice honked like a Brooklyn cab. Her 'Nu Yawk' accent is pretty potent here, and it's in obvious opposition to the Boston bray of the male co-stars. Both Brian and Ted sound like purveyors of Pepperidge Farm products with their "yaad, caar" pronunciation. Yet get her on a stage, frugging her fine figure off, and all Big Apple accents are forgiven. Her main strip scene is one of the genre's best, especially when she is dismissed outright by an overweight weirdo who looks like a failed female to male sex change patient. As this surreal she-man throws heckling hand signs in her direction, June grabs a bucket of ice cubes and starts her own frozen water war. All the while as she's tossing and shim's taunting, we get gorgeous glimpses of Ms. Roberts rack. It's the sole skin highlight in this otherwise non-naked nonsense.
Wondering where all the softcore sex in Kitten in a Cage actually went? Well, look no further than The Girl from Pussycat. Seems Twiggy wannbe Darlene spends her days copulating and tanning. She then heads over to her girl gang hide out and does the lesbian limbo with gal pal Bobbie. They then discuss the broad daylight bank robbery they have planned. One of the she mob gets incredibly cold feet, so the always horny Judy suggests Jean as a substitute. Only problem is, Jean is in love with Jack, Darlene's sometime boy toy and teller at the financial institution they intend to fleece. They deal with this possible conflict of criminal interest by simultaneously reminiscing about, and having, sex. Judy explains how a single BJ lead to a life of loathing men, while Bobbie and Darlene do the Sappho squat. Eventually, the heist is pulled, the girls revel in the $250K they scored, and naturally decide to have sex to celebrate. Various members of the local perverts union show up and soon it's a non-stop orgy of anonymous nookie. Jack eventually puts tit and two together and threatens to expose Darlene and her female felons. One phone call to Bobbie, however, and it's torture time. One application of belt to backside, screwdriver to footpad and toaster to fingers later and Jack is hobbled and hogtied. It will take a desperate diversion by Jean to say her man from the menace of The Girl from Pussycat.
Take it from someone whose seen hundreds of exploitation films – if you want more softcore schtupping than the FDA allows per skin flick serving, The Girl from Pussycat is your nonstop shark fest. Over the course of 66 inconsequential minutes, there is more girl-on-girl grinding, female on male horn piping, guy on gal gladhanding and couple-on-couple corn cobbing than in an entire Masters and Johnson's research session. Like a perverted Isaac Newton theory, every action here is met with an equal and opposite fornication reaction. The girl gang successfully robs a bank? It's time to ball. A potential problem (in this case, a milquetoast teller who wants to spoil the poon party) is successfully tortured away? Time to fluff the fur! Even as part of his meandering mise-en-scene, the obviously pseudonymed David Smythe apparently needs sex scenes to stretch out his narrative. Phone conversations are capped off with cooter and random discussions about personal preferences must be illustrated with proto porn. The best example of this strange stratagem comes from the character of Judy. More or less giving it away on the street (the reactions from some obviously clueless extras are classic) she picks up guys and lets them treat her like filth. Since she believes she is dominating these dudes, her perplexing passivity renders the sequences incredibly squalid. Yet Smythe must believe that he's playing the characterization card here, since Judy gets juked not once, but four separate times.
There is nothing but softcore overkill here, a true test of an exploitation fan's mattress mambo mantle. Hairdos do more to define individuals than dialogue or backstory, and Jack's last act torment session is more funny than frightening. Certainly, the scotch and sirloin crowd who made these movies profitable couldn't have cared less about deep introspection and sound individual purpose. They wanted sex, and lots of it. The Girl from Pussycat certainly delivers the naughty goods, but one has to wonder if the men who made the cash registers ring ever noticed the obvious anti-guy dynamic at play. Judy hates all males since a bout of mandated oral landed her the label of slut. Jean wants a passive paramour, a non-masculine mook she can control completely (no wonder she's hot for major wuss Jack). Darlene diddles dudes for their obvious appendage advantage, yet she would much rather mount Bobbie's butch body. Indeed, The Girl from Pussycat paints men as driven by their dong, unable to rationalize or respect women for what they bring to the gender dynamic. Or maybe it's just supposed to be an hour long exposé of erotic. It's kind of hard to tell.
As with most of their black and white fare, Something Weird Video really delivers a dynamic DVD presentation. The 1.33:1 full screen image is monochrome magic, with only a few minor defects – dirt, scratches, errant edit splices – screwing up the transfer. Kitten is better than its pal Pussycat, if only because the latter's nonstop sex showcase is slightly more faded. On the sound side of the equation, both movies offer Dolby Digital Mono mediocrity, although Pussycat employs an all classical underscore (the public domain dominates again) that really grates on your nerves. While one could assume that such a sonic standard would completely class up a film, Kitten's garage rock rejects are far more fun that Pussycat's endless loop of Ludwig Van.
In keeping with the feline format of the films (or, at the very least, their titles) SWV piles on the sensational supplements, starting with a collection of crazy trailers. With naughty names like The House of Cats, The Pink Pussy, Where Sin Lives and Pussycats Paradise, there is enough explicit entendres to keep the middle schooler stunned for days. We then get a collection of perfunctory peep show reels which argues for the amplified attractiveness of today's adult entertainers. Apparently, back before porn was considered acceptable, any old maid with a desire to drop her top was sat before a camera and told to let them fly! As a result, we get incredibly icky entries like Pretty Kitty from Kansas City, Kute Kitten and Young and Kittenish. In addition, Harry Novak (who distributed Kitten in a Cage) offers up his vault of vile goodies, and we get a wonderfully wicked gallery of exploitation art (with sleazoid soundtrack hits) and a looks at some sensational sexploitation photos. It's enough to make you purr with perverted delight.
Still, pussy as an exploitation term, is problematic. Some films flaunt it without ever living up to the body part promise, and with indecency laws that constantly threaten to overwhelm the industry, delivering said feminine feline was a guaranteed trip to morals court. So all catcalls are complex categorizations that almost always end up being a baffling bait and switch. You promise lady loins, but all you deliver is panties and a risqué rain check. This is definitely the case with Kitten in a Cage. The infant animal in the title should have clued us in to the lack of substantive skin. On the other hand, The Girl from Pussycat just ever so slightly modifies its moniker and then completely overdoses on the counterfeit copulating. There's not much femme fleece on display, but these gals are sure employing their tigers of temptation in the pure pursuit of pleasure. Definitely a double feature of wavering entertainment values, Kitten in a Cage/ The Girl from Pussycat certainly push the definitional limits of the feline expression. One is as stuck up and snotty as a pampered pet. The other overwhelms the typical Tom with its out of control canoodling.
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