Friday, April 3, 2015

The Fat Black Pussycat

Harold Lea

Someone with a fetish for high heeled shoes is carving, poisoning, and exploding their way through the beatnik community in Greenwich Village. Super square detective, Walsh (Edward Jamus) and his partner Ed (Hugh Romney) are on the case. What they encounter are batch of drunken drugged up louts and waton women in the underground art scene. The killer keeps striking and stealing shoes while, Walsh keeps stumbling around with a woman named Janet, who must be sensible because she isn’t a real beatnik, just an anthropologist posing as one.

Hey, wait a minute, that black pussycat isn't fat at all...
The Fat Black Pussycat lets you know exactly what’s up during its opening moments: a naked woman stumbles down an alley and collapses, as half of her her butt is lovingly framed in the image for the entirety of the opening credits.

The Fat Black Pussycat soon settles into its groove: Detective Walsh runs into increasingly odd beatnik after beatnik. It rarely amounts to more than some light comedy and exploitative moments of, ‘look how disgusting and dumb these arts slobs are.’ The whole thing feels like a Dragnet episode, albeit with a slightly less straight-laced lead and some excessively violent murders. The end manages to conflate homosexuality, bisexuality, fetishism, and schizophrenia in an outstanding moment of wrongheadedness. There is also some supreme nonsense about cats having ESP and being attracted to murder scenes. It would almost feel out of place if the film was a more coherent whole.

Even though the film holds counterculture in contempt, the locations do provide an interesting snapshot of Greenwich Village in 1963. As a proto-slasher film, I think works reasonably well. The attacks are surprisingly graphic (thanks to some later filmed inserts). We even get an early POV shot from a heavy breathing killer, something that would become something of a slasher staple in later years. I suspect the psycho-sexual babble is cribbed from Psycho (1960) and is completely (perhaps deliberately) misunderstood.

Ah, you opened with the Lew Welch gambit, a classic.
Surprisingly, and with no small thanks to Something Weird’s restoration, The Fat Black Pussycat looks and sounds great. The score consists of groovy jazz that adds an air of energy and just enough sleaze to keeps things interesting without dominating every moment. The cinematography is filled with some lovely looking high contrast black and white images that elevate the film from the micro-budgeted wreck that it really is. The real magic of the production comes alive while watching the deleted scenes and the alternate ending. It’s here it becomes evident that the final product was stitched together with extra scenes of talking and blood, and it’s minor miracle that the whole thing is coherent at all.

The Fat Black Pussycat is sleazy and exploitative in just the right way. When it entertains it does so in an engagingly gross way, when all else fails it throws out some random bit of weirdness that manages to confound long enough for the film to move on to the next scene.

For more Fat Black Pussycat, head on over to the Something Weird Video Challenge!

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