Friday Art: Cats by Franz Marc (1910) + A Pair of Peter Cushing Films

Marc is considered a German Expressionist, although this work, with its super-bright colorful thick swirly brushstrokes, suggests a lot of Van Gogh and general post-impressionist influence.

Marc loved painting animals with a wild color palette. Most of his works depict animals and wildlife. He got drafted into the German army in World War 1 and put into the infantry. By the middle of the war, Germany realized artists were valuable and started transferring notable ones out of the army. But before the orders reached him, Marc was killed at the Battle of Verdun, along with lots and lots of other people.

It’s best to think more about the kitties, isn’t it?

I visited a local pet supply store today just to pet the black cat who lives there. Turns out he’s got a case of the fleas, since one of the tiny little bastards bit me on the hand. If I die from bubonic plague, let it be known that I went out the way I wanted to – petting some lazy ass cat.

I’d like to think Marc went out the same way. It’s the romantic in me.

And yes, more cat pictures and stories. I can’t help myself. I’m fascinated, hypnotized and soulfully owned by the furry little bastards, I admit it. I’ll even watch stupid movies if they’re centered around cats, like my review of “Eye of The Cat” a while back. This time, cats led me to a Peter Cushing film which was not that good, and then another Peter Cushing film that was out and out excellent.

This time, it was “The Uncanny,” a rather weak 1977 horror anthlogy produced by some of the remnants of the team that once had brought us the Amicus material, most of which is WAY more fun than this one. This time, Peter Cushing plays a horror writer frantically bringing his new tell-all manuscript to publisher Ray Milland as the “glue” between three short pieces. Cushing has discovered a GIANT SECRET CONSPIRACY that proves that cats are controlling humankind and will rule the world. That was enough to get me interested, but each of the three stories are so standard pat “Black Cat” style formula that they are all essentially fairly dull. We’re basically rooting for cats (a brood of them in story one, a single cat in story 3) to take deathly revenge on some kitty disliker, and then it plays out with some very cheap bloody effects. The middle story had the most potential – a young orphaned girl and her companion black kitty are adopted by her aunt & uncle. Her Veruca Salt stand-in cousin torments her over her parents’ death, it turns out her mom was a witch and her aunt never liked her, takes it out on the girl and the cat, so the little girl learns some witchcraft for revenge. The revenge part was done well, surprising since it involved actually getting the audience to root for killing a kid (a la Willy Wonka’s audience-encouraged let’s get rid of that brat entertainingly vibe) – the witch girl shrinks evil bitch cousin down to “the size of a mouse!” and then the black cat goes to work until the little witch has had enough and squashes her cousin like a bug. My problem with the story was that the aunt was just as evil, even going so far as to have the cat put to sleep by a vet just to get it out of the house (and for THIS, I wanted her to DIE!), and nothing really happens to her. I would have had the little girl conjure up her mom’s spirit to take over the aunt’s body, thereby giving the little girl her witch mom and mentor back, and then throw in a little bit where the nicer uncle suddenly is surprised when his cold fish wife suddenly turns into a Wiccan maniac in the sack. Cut to cat, purring. Everyone loves happy endings.

At the end of this one, a bunch of cats gang up on Peter Cushing to prevent his secret from getting out… but all in all, the movie was quite lame.

A far better Peter Cushing film wasn’t a horror film, but a wonderfully economical crime/caper film, “Cash on Demand” from 1962. Cushing plays the super-anal-retentive Scrooge-like bank manager at Christmastime, the wonderul Andre Morell plays the robber who poses as an insurance inspector and then informs Cushing that his wife and son are being held hostage unless he assists in the robbery. Based on a play, the dialogue crackles as the free-wheeling and charming Morell rides Cushing about his control freak personality, Cushing counters with an inner moral strength, trying to save his family, his job, and eventually learning to appreciate his staff who he thinks are in the dark about it all. And it all moves along briskly in under 90 minutes, without one wasted. This one is a real gem, and it’s interesting to see Cushing outside the usual horror/scifi genres. And he works well with Morell, who had played Dr. Watson to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes in “Hound of the Baskervilles” a few years earlier. Highly recommended.

Although, obviously, all it needed were some cats.

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