The 1972 movie, Night of 1000 Cats, is one of those exploitation movies that has lessons for the attentive viewer, particularly people who are venturing into the mystical and treacherous world of dating. It is the stirring drama of one man’s search for love, the insane lengths he will go to receive it, and the women who fall into his seductive trap. Also: cats. So many cats.
Hugo Stiglitz portrays Hugo, oddly enough, a man wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. Hugo lives in an abandoned monastery in Acapulco. His only constant companion is Dorgo (Gerardo Zepeda), his mute, clubfooted manservant, who looks like a cross between famed Mexican wrestler, Konnan, and James Coco. Dorgo is not much of a conversationalist, and Hugo seeks encumberment of the female kind.
Hugo finds dates by flying his private helicopter over the city, keeping a close eye on the ground. When he spies a woman that strikes his fancy, he lowers his helicopter and hovers directly in front of them, sometimes mere feet above the ground. If the object of his desire doesn’t run screaming for shelter or immediately call the police (spoiler: nobody calls the police), Hugo lowers a rope ladder for his intended to climb on board. He then whisks them away for a day of swimming, water skiing, and horseback riding on the beach, like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes. After that, it’s back to the castle for a gourmet dinner, cooked by the master of meat himself, Dorgo. It’s all very Robin Leach until the end of the evening, when Hugo decides its time to show his lucky girl his private collection. This consists of a row of human heads, floating in liquid filled glass cases. There’s an empty jar at the end of the table, waiting for its next inhabitant. One decapitation later, Hugo’s collection has grown by one, and the woman’s body is diced into bite-sized chunks. Her remains are then fed to the titular thousand cats Hugo keeps behind in a chain-link fence in the catacombs under the monastery. He and Dorgo stand on a precipice above them, hurling wads of former bikini babe at all the kitties on the floor below.
Lesson: Don’t climb into helicopters with random dudes who look like Eric Clapton during the Derek and the Dominos years.
Why does he act like that? Why does he hoard those cats? It’s just the dog in him, I suppose.
One of Hugo’s potential conquests is a married woman named Cathy (Anjanette Comer) who has a daughter, also named Cathy (Delia Peña Orta). What is the deal with names in this movie? Hugo practically lands in her swimming pool one day, blowing water onto the concrete and forcing her to scamper back inside. But maybe this psychotic pilot isn’t so bad, Cathy thinks, and with her greasy, cigar-chomping husband away on a business trip, it’s the perfect time to leave little four-year-old Cathy home alone (which she does, twice) and get a little on the side.
Lesson: Don’t leave your youngster by herself at the house while cheating on your spouse with Chopper Dave.
Cathy refuses to get into the helicopter, though, preferring to drive to the castle herself. Hugo leads her there on her motorcycle, and they spend a passionate evening of lovemaking in his grandfather’s old taxidermy room. There’s a stuffed polar bear, monkey heads, a moose, and she stares at all of these dead things on the walls. The camera cleverly goes in and out of focus the closer Cathy gets to orgasm. But Hugo’s remaining plans are interrupted by a stranger at the door. Cathy takes this opportunity to go back home to little Cathy, who has probably woken up by now, wondering where Mommy is, not knowing how to make herself a sandwich, storing up traumatic memories for her future therapist.
Lesson: Polar bears aren’t sexy, except to other polar bears and soft drink marketing teams. And Hugo.
Hugo might be obsessed with Cathy, but that doesn’t prevent him from going after other women on the side. He keeps cruising around the skies of Acapulco, hovering over hotties, like Blue Thunder without whisper mode. As long as he can get them back to the castle, he’ll have something to feed his pets. There’s the brunette he chases through a tropical river. There’s also the kept woman who leaves Hugo unsatisfied one afternoon, so he drowns her kitty in the swimming pool. This seems like strange behavior from a man who loves cats so much, he keeps a thousand of them in his basement. Sometimes, people show affection in the strangest of ways.
Lesson: Have your pets spayed and neutered and we’ll see you next time on The Price is Right.
There is despicable behavior all throughout this movie from murder to cannibalism, adultery to kitten collection. This leaves the viewer with no one to empathize with. Even poor dumb Dorgo is a frustrated gourmet who can’t play chess for dammit so he throws humans into a Cuisinart at Hugo’s behest. We are forced to root for the cats, hoping that they will somehow make an escape and wander off to lead lives of freedom and religious fulfillment.
Lesson: Yeah, cats are okay.
Night of 1000 Cats (also known as Night of a 1000 Cats, and that unnecessary ‘a’ just runs all over me) is one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s nonsense. Nobody acts the way these people do in real life, and that’s good. Imagine living in a world where men just land in womens’ backyards in their whirlybirds, beckoning them to come hither. It would be dating anarchy! Especially with a guy like Hugo, who goes from meet cute to cat meat in a matter of hours.
It’s a bad, bad movie, but if you’re an exploitation fan, you have got to check this out. It’s way up there on the Bizarre-O-Meter, and a splendid time is guaranteed for some.
Lesson: Sometimes, you’re the cat food, sometimes you’re the cat. Something like that. I don’t know. I left my notes in my helicopter.