A Cat In The Brain (1990)

AUGUST 16, 2009


No one sits down with a Lucio Fulci movie and expects coherency, but A Cat In The Brain (Italian: Un Gatto Nel Cervello) goes a step beyond the norm. Usually I can at least understand how scenes relate to one another, if not what exactly is happening in them or why, but here, I felt like I was watching 5 different movies at once. So I wasn’t too surprised to discover that it WAS a few different movies (previous Fulci films), outtakes of which were assembled with newly shot footage of Fulci (as himself) and edited together in what some might consider a narrative.

Let me see if I get this right... Fulci is making a new horror film, which seems to be some sort of Giallo, but he is having trouble making it because the violence is getting to him, which is causing him to have paranoid delusions and freakout episodes where he sees everyone as drug/sex-addicted Nazis. He also may be a killer, but we know he’s not pretty early on because we see his shrink (a guy who kind of looks like him) is the actual killer, but he also hypnotizes Fulci into doing a few killings himself. And at the end, we find out that all of this was a movie Fulci was directing. So he was directing a movie about himself playing himself? LEVELS.

But all that matters is that it’s a lot of fun. The kills come along at a steady pace (much more often than in Zombi or The Beyond), and they are quite gory - we even get a little kid being beheaded! And there are also some borderline porn scenes for good measure; I would actually argue that the sight of a fat guy licking a younger woman’s breast is the most repulsive thing I’ve ever seen in one of Fulci’s films. Fulci’s performance adds another level of enjoyment - he’s not a guy you see too often (having been screwed out of the rights to every single film he made, and the fact that he died in 1996, sort of prevents him from taking part in too many DVD releases), so it’s a nice little novelty.

There’s one scene in particular that cracked me up, when Fulci is driving along and comes across this Charles Manson-looking hitchhiker. For whatever reason, Fulci begins chasing after him, and the guy is like “What’s the matter with you, Fulci?” Now, I DID doze for a few minutes, so maybe this guy was an established character, but it seemed like he just happened upon this guy and the guy recognized him as a horror movie director, and was now just completely baffled by the fact he was trying to kill him. Like if I was walking home one day and then George Romero tried running me over. And then Fulci runs him over like four times, which is pretty awesome. The incident is never mentioned again.

I also dug the whole meta-concept, as it reminded me of the “film within a film” cartoon series that I’ve been developing for the past couple years (anyone know anyone at Adult Swim? Hook a brother up). In fact, the film would make an excellent source for an episode (each episode concerns a single horror film), but I also considered using it as an inspiration for the HMAD book, which I still haven’t decided on a concept for. If I was to do a novel, I think it would be about how BC (a fictionalized version of myself) was going crazy due to watching horror movies every single day, and then a wave of murders begins, with BC being the prime suspect because the murders are re-staged versions from shitty horror movies, movies that only someone like him would have bothered to watch. Could be funny.

The only real complaint I have concerns the ending. We follow Fulci on his final mental breakdown, and then his friend finds him lying in the grass a while later. The friend, who suspected Fulci of being the killer, is like “Oh we know its not you now, the killer was your shrink and the cops shot him” (not exact quote). What the hell kind of bullshit is that? He never has a showdown with the real killer, and worse, the guy is offed offscreen? Weak sauce. The Coens can get away with that sort of nonsense, but in an Italian horror movie, I shouldn’t be denied the sight of a single person’s demise, especially if they’re the goddamn killer.

The 2 disc set comes jam-packed with shit, and I still haven’t gone through it all. On disc 1, there’s about 25 minutes of footage from Fulci’s appearance at the NY Fangoria show in 1996. The panel footage is sort of frustrating to watch, as it’s only 20 minutes of an hour long session, half of which is just translation (a question is asked in English, the translator asks Fulci in Italian, Fulci answers in Italian, the translator then says it in English). I would have preferred they subtitle Fulci and leave the translation stuff out, if time was a factor. The other 4-5 minutes are of Fulci signing stuff afterwards. It’s an odd piece, since it has no direct narration of any kind, but it’s also sort of heartbreaking for me, as he signs his two Fangoria issues for people over and over. See, the only autographs I ever ask for are of the directors for the “cover movie” on each issue of Fangoria, and I will obviously never get Fulci to sign my copies of those issues (he actually died about 6 weeks after this appearance, his first at a US convention). Bummer. Disc 2 has a whopping two hours of interviews, half that time on Fulci himself. I watched a few of the short ones, called “Memories of Lucio” in which some of the actors from Cat offer their, well, memories of Lucio. They’re sort of bland and generic (“He was a bit cold, but once you got to know him he was quite nice.”) and yet in between each one is an ad telling us how these are part of a four hour version, with 90 people offering their memories. If these are the clips they are using to drum up interest, I shall pass. Then there are some trailers for a bunch of Grindhouse-y movies, including Massacre Mafia Style, which is probably my favorite trailer of all time. At no point is Cat’s alternate title “Nightmare Concert” explained, as there is no concert in the film. There is a cat though. Hopefully I will get to the rest of the interviews tomorrow; I’ll watch Fulci’s for sure as he is a delight (during the Fango one, he accuses Wes Craven of ripping this film off for New Nightmare, and advises the crowd to never work with Franco Nero).

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. Will I be exiled from the horror community if I reveal that this is the only Fulci film I really enjoy? I mean sure, almost every movie he's done has a great scene or two, but only "Cat in the Brain," aka "Lucio Fulci's 8 1/2," is packed nearly nonstop with baffling goodness.

  2. “What’s the matter with you, Fulci?”
    The funniest scene in the whole damn movie. Period.

    As to why it's never mentioned again remember Fulci realizes he hallucinated the whole thing and was actually running over a paint can(?) or something like it anyway.

  3. I had fun watching this with friends a while ago. We were bullshitting with music on and trying to make sense of everything. The psychiatrist that looks like Fulci was throwing people for a loop. Then the nazi sex party starts. Never a dull moment.

    The saddest part about the Fulci signing extra is that his table is right next to the bathroom. Like they really couldn't find a better place for his table... sigh... RIP Fulci

    We need to hound those Grindhouse Releasing guys next time we see them, and get some dirt on when MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE is coming out. Too good.

  4. I was pretty bored by this movie, actually. It's just various scenes of Fulci hallucinating footage from bad movies he produced for hack directors (like Andrea Bianchi) that just go on FOREVER. And I was about ready to off myself during the endless Nazi scene (which came from Fulci's Sodom's Ghosts). One thing I did really like was the shower murder, as it kind of offers what a sleazy Giallo version of Psycho's shower scene would look like.

  5. Nice write up. A few comments on your comments...
    I'm pretty sure panel discussion was as long as you see it. My friend and I shot the footage while I was there to interview Lucio for FANGORIA -- I don't recall Grindhose cutting anything. Blame Creation for the insensitive brevity of the event. Or...Grindhouse cut it...haven't watched the extras yet...too painful for me. Perhaps you were there on Day 2?

    Lucio was a great guy. Smart and shrewd and generous and caring. He was dealt raw deals by many individuals. Including the folks at Creation. Glad you noticed the table next to the bathroom -- THAT'S THE REASON WE SHOT IT!!!

    He was a good man and a great director -- the better his producer, the better a director he would be. He was very touched by all the people at the convention showing up for him. He wasn't prepared. He was treated VERY differently in Italy... He surely deserves the interest and attention.


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