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July 06, 2016

A Cat in the Brain


Un gatto nel cervello / Nightmare Concert
Lucio Fulci - 1990
Grindhouse Releasing BD Regions ABC

I get the feeling that anyone who sees A Cat in the Brain will have their own interpretation of the film. Lucio Fulci plays a film director named Lucio Fulci, who happens to make extremely violent horror movies. The autobiographical elements pretty much begin and end here. The on-screen Lucio Fulci's imagination takes over he believes he is living in his own horror movie. There are a series of mysterious murders taking place, that this Fulci has witnessed, or maybe committed with his own hand.

About one third of Cat is made up of footage from other films integrated into the narrative. While some of the films within the film are attributed to the on-screen Lucio Fulci, the clips are not all from films directed by Lucio Fulci, at least not officially. David Schow's extremely helpful liner notes explain the sources of these various scenes of murder - beheadings, stabbings, amputations and assorted eyeball gouging. Most notably used are a couple of scenes from Massacre, directed by Andrea Bianchi. There are also clips from a couple of filmmakers who may be familiar names to the most hard core devotees of Italian genre films. Even when recycling his own work, Fulci uses excerpts from his lesser known films, Touch of Death and Ghosts of Sodom.

Not all of the older footage is seamlessly incorporated into the the film Fulci shot in for this film, but that imperfection is part of the fun. This is a film that will appeal most to those who have embraced Lucio Fulci for the bulk of his career, especially the last years with the director fighting inadequate budgets and his own ill health. Even for those familiar with Cat, the various supplements, especially the liner notes, help put the film into context as something both personal while simultaneously fanciful. The notes by Fulci's daughter, Antonella, are especially welcomed, explaining the use of Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" was Fulci's homage to Fritz Lang's M and Peter Lorre's performance.

As for the video supplements, Grindhouse Releasing again makes the gang at the Criterion Collection look like a bunch of cheap punks. Half hour interviews with screenwriter Antonio Tentrori and composer Fabio Frizzi, among others. There's also a forty-five minute interview with Brett Halsey, star of several of the film clips used, which covers his early acting career, years primarily in Italy, and return to Hollywood, as well as work outside of acting. Additional written notes on the supplemental disc cover the careers of Fulci and Halsey. Whomever wrote the notes on Halsey seems unfamiliar with comedian Jack Benny, credited with "discovering" Halsey. Benny never had a late night talk show, as mentioned here, but did have a weekly "variety" show. Fulci and Halsey's filmographies include a few trailers, my favorite for Fulci being the western, Silver Saddle, while Halsey is seen, though not credited, in Hot Rod Rumble. In the department of strange coincidences, both Halsey and Hot Rod Rumble star, Leigh Snowden, got career boosts from Jack Benny, and as part of Universal-Internationals "new talent", played small roles in two different sequels to Creature from the Black Lagoon, and two different films by Douglas Sirk.

cat in the brain a.jpg
Lucio Fulci as "Lucio Fulci"

Posted by peter at July 6, 2016 02:45 PM