If you checked out my unboxing for this release of Cat in the Brain, I mention that I’m currently on my journey of discovering Lucio Fulci. I’ve always enjoyed The New York Ripper as a slasher fan and The Beyond is easily one of my favorite zombie films ever. Lucio Fulci is an ever controversial filmmaker, and not just because of the subject matter and extreme violence of his films. Are his films gruesome masterpieces of the macabre, or Italian rip-off schlock meant only to shock? That depends on who you ask and the answer is probably a little bit of both. With over 50 directing credits to his name it is likely something in his catalog will fit to your liking. Today we jump into Cat in the Brain, maybe his most polarizing film, a meta-film where Fulci (playing himself) is able to reflect on his career.
The Movie (2.5/5)
Opening on an overhead shot of Fulci filling pages with his latest ideas for gruesome set-pieces and immediately cutting to a questionable looking cat devouring a pile of gruesome brain matter, the film wastes little time establishing what it’s going to be. It’s important to note that this film is essentially an incomplete Frankenstein of a movie with many scenes being sourced from unused footage of past Fulci works. It seems these pieces of the film are used for the violent visions that plague the filmmakers mind and the scenes that make up the movies he’s filming.
We learn that years of creating some of the most shocking scenes put to celluoid and being labeled as the “Godfather of Gore” has taken it’s toll on Fulci. Simple everyday things such as a lunch break at a nice restaurant or a groundskeeper with a chainsaw fill Fulci’s mind with visions of cannibalism or body mutilation from his movies, not being able to separate them from his own reality. Mix in an evil psychiatrist that Fulci confides in, violent drunken drug filled orgies, madness at every turn, and a continuous display of gruesomely violent set pieces as Fulci makes his way in the world and you are set for one great big mess of a movie.
Cat in the Brain floats around from scene to scene without much care in the world. The looseness of the plot really allows for an endless special effects and make up showcase as humans are mutilated in pretty much every way conceivable. There are murders being committed in the real world as well that will not have you wondering if it is a crazy fan, someone out to get Fulci, or Fulci himself. You see that the evil psychiatrist I mentioned earlier decides that after Fulci explains his visions and shows him his films he’s going to hypnotize Fulci for some reason and then run around the city murdering anyone he can find in ways that recreate Fulci’s films because of course seeing violence on screen will create violence in reality. That’s the real bread and butter plot of this movie and it is as silly as it sounds.
When reviewing a film, the most important aspect to me in whether or not a film is worth recommending is if it successfully achieves what it sets out to do for it’s specific audience. To answer that question for Cat in the Brain would require another question to be answered. What exactly is Cat in the Brain setting out to do? Is it a spectacle of gruesome special effects that sets out to top everything Fulci has done before it, Fulci’s sincere attempt at a clever meta analysis of his career, or just an idea that came together to put to use some old archive footage Fulci found while sweeping his editing room? Maybe it’s a combination of all three; I don’t have an answer to that question. What I do know though is I have experienced Cat in the Brain and made it out the other side with my sanity otherwise intact.
Cat in the Brain is a convoluted mess of ideas, images, scenes, special effects, and self indulgence that I can only truly recommend to serious gorehounds and Fulci fans who need to at least see it for themselves. You may love it, you may hate it, but it will most certainly keep you engaged in the kaleidoscope of horror, madness, and gore that is presented on the screen.
The Picture (2/5)
Easily the most disappointing package of this otherwise stellar release is the picture quality. I’m fairly forgiving when it comes to these sleaze buckets getting the HD treatment, and like other movies of this ilk these have to be graded on a scale when compared to modern day releases. Unfortunately for Cat in the Brain, it doesn’t hold up well against it’s other grindhouse style brothers, especially compared to the exceptional presentation of the recent Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray edition of Pieces. This could easily be due to the multitude of sources used to stitch together this movie, the barely finished nature of the film, and possibly the film making itself. Obviously this will be the best this film has ever been released but extremely heavy grain in certain sequences, inconsistent quality from scene to scene and an overall muddied look certainly detract from an otherwise great presentation.
The Sound (4/5)
Grindhouse Releasing has given us the option of viewing Cat in the Brain with either the original Italian audio or the original English audio both presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. The film honestly sounds great for what it is, especially when compared to some of the image quality. I watched the English audio version because I always find the dubbing a bit more charming in these older Italian movies. There are no issues with pops, hisses, or the dialogue being too quiet compared to the louder horror movie type moments, and the splatter effects all sound great. My favorite part of Cat in the Brain and many of these Italian horror movies is the soundtrack, which is fantastic. Grindhouse Releasing has graciously provided that to us in full on a separate CD included in the release.
The Features & Packaging (5/5)
Grindhouse Releasing is easily my favorite distributor in the US, and the gold standard on packaging as far as I’m concerned. No one is coming close right now. Grindhouse has packed this release in its usual slipbox with the first 3000 printed coming with glow in the dark features on the box itself, as well as a lithograph portait of Lucio Fulci . This portrait is also the reverse art on the actual sleeve when you pull the case from the slipbox. Inside they have packed 3-Discs: 2 Blu-ray and 1 CD in it’s own separate sleeve.
The features disc has been packed to the brim with interviews from many different years and many different folks that have worked with Fulci that paint much more of a retrospective of him than they do Cat in the Brain. In-depth archive interviews with Fulci himself are included. Thankfully, a few newer interviews with cinematographer Sandro Grossi, composer Fabio Frizzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori, and poster artist Enzo Sciotti are included as well, to give us some insight on the film itself and bring some clarity to the insanity presented on the screen. Also included are liner notes in a nice booklet, original trailers, a gallery of stills and poster art, the usual Grindhouse Releasing surprises, and a gorgeous list of trailers to check out of other wonderful Grindhouse Releasing films. It’s a stellar package all around, sure to please collectors and die hard Fulci fans alike.
The Technical Stuff:
Hi-definition digital restoration of the original Uncensored Directors Cut presented in 1.66:1
Original English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Original Italian Audio
2 Blu-ray Disc
The Verdict (3.5/5)
While it’s hard to recommend Cat in the Brain to anyone who isn’t already familiar with Lucio Fulci and his body of work, Grindhouse Releasing has put together another excellent package to go along with their line-up of other quality Blu-ray releases. A questionable transfer of the film is the only real detractor, and of course the polarizing nature of the film itself being the real point of entry here. If you are a collector of previous Grindhouse Releasing offerings this deserves a spot of your shelf right along with those. If you are a fan of Fulci himself then you need to check this film out at least once to form your own opinion on it. This Blu-ray release will provide you with one of the most well rounded retrospectives on the film maker. If you already are a fan, without a doubt Cat in the Brain is a significant part of Fulci’s history. Is it Fulci’s masterpiece or Fulci’s biggest mess? That’s something you can only decide after you take this violence filled ride through Fulci’s mind yourself.