A Cat's Tale
I'll be honest I had never heard of Disney's "That Darn Cat!" until I spotted the 1997 remake on TV and was made aware of the original which not only featured Hayley Mills making her final Disney movie but also Dean Jones in his first Disney movie. Why I've never heard of it is beyond me because "That Darn Cat!" is surprisingly good, not as good as some of Disney's more iconic family movies but certainly not a movie which should be hidden away. It is simply fun with a daft storyline about a cat who the FBI want to tail in the hope it can lead them to a couple of criminals, but the daftness plays way for some magically clever scenes where this cat basically out smarts everyone. And when it's not being smart it is full of typical Disney humour from confusion to slapstick making it one of the most pleasant family movies going.
Whilst out on his usual 9pm prowl, stealing food from a dog and stopping off at a fish shop, Siamese cat D.C. follows home a man. That man is a criminal, who along with his partner robbed a bank and kidnapped a woman but having ventured into the man's apartment the woman manages to place her watch with half a message on it around D.C.'s neck. When D.C. returns home to his owner Patti Randall (Hayley Mills - The Parent Trap) she finds the watch and the message and gets in touch with the FBI. With D.C. being the only clue to where the kidnapped woman may be FBI Agent Zeke (Dean Jones - Torpedo Run) Kelso is given the job of tailing him, but his presence at the Randall home causes confusion as Patti's friend Canoe (Tom Lowell) becomes suspicious as does Gregory (Roddy McDowall) who is dating her sister Ingrid (Dorothy Provine).
The actual opening to "That Darn Cat!" is a little surprising considering we are talking a Disney family movie because the first few scenes are about the two criminals, a couple of bank robbers who have kidnapped a woman and these two are unsavoury characters. Now there maybe nothing new to this, Disney movies always had bad guys but these two whilst not completely nasty are much nastier than you expect from a Disney movie. And one of these bad guys is Frank Gorshin who went on to play "The Riddler" in the "Batman" series which almost adds to the comical villainy when watching it now.
But don't fear as this is just the set up which leads us to D.C. the Siamese cat who thanks to his imaginative owner Patti is important in tracking down these two robbers. Now what follows on from this opening is simply creatively comical and borders on the farcical as we have FBI Agent Zeke Kelso put in charge of trailing D.C. despite having a cat allergy. This leads to confusion as not only a nosey neighbour spots him hanging out at Patti's house but so does her friend Canoe and also the pompous Gregory who is dating Patti's sister Ingrid. Confusion leads to plenty of typical Disney comedy as the boyfriends think the girls are carrying on with other men especially as they are being so secretive and all of which is typically good fun.
But the real fun of "That Darn Cat!" really comes from D.C. outwitting every one. From us being introduced to him as he tricks a dog in order to go and steal its food, to the way the cat makes its rounds around the neighbourhood, stealing food out of windows and so on it just makes you smile. And all of this is before we have the FBI involved and we not only get the agents trying to follow D.C. to see where he goes but we also get Kelso trying to takes D.C.'s paw prints. Even as an adult all of this humour is just great and it makes me wish I had watched "That Darn Cat!" when I was younger.
Now D.C. is very much the star of "That Darn Cat!", the various Siamese cats are so well trained that all the actors are out shone by their feline co-star. But that doesn't mean the actors are poor as Hayley Mills is once again great fun, delivering that sort of aloofness as Patti whilst Dorothy Provine as her sister Ingrid has this Doris Day vibe going on, not just in look but also in the comedy she delivers. You can add to this fun performances from Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester and Tom Lowell but it is Dean Jones in his first Disney movie which delivers the most fun especially when it comes to him trying to deal with D.C. who out smarts him over and over again.
What this all boils down to is that "That Darn Cat!" is a Disney movie which most certainly deserves to be better known than it is. Even now over 40 years after it was released the comedy of a cat out smarting everyone whilst the FBI try to tail it is simply brilliant and so inoffensive, the perfect movie for young children and parents.