DVD: Because of the Cats / Niet Voor De Poezen / Brutalization (1973)

March 6, 2014 | By

 

BrutalizationFilm: Good

Transfer: Poor  / Extras: n/a

Label: One 7 Movies

Region: 0 (NTSC)

Released:  January 7, 2014

Genre:  Crime / Eurosleaze

Synopsis: Det. Van der Valk discovers a rash of recent home invasions are tied to a gang of spoiled rich kids.

Special Features:  Theatrical Trailer

 


 

Review:

Best-known for Van der Valk, the long –running British TV series starring Barry Foster (Frenzy), the eponymous character first hit the cinema screens in the German production Amsterdam Affair (1968), and in spite of the ongoing TV series’ success, apparently Nicholas Freeling’s character was up for grabs, resulting it this Dutch-Belgium production with a mix of British and Dutch actors.

Whereas the Thames TV series reportedly didn’t use any of the plots in Freeling’s 11 novels, Because of the Cats is more unique in being closer to the author’s source material, but the final screen story is a strange mix of blatant sexploitation, police procedural intrigue, and a wrap-up shaded to resemble a particular 1972 high-profile murder conviction.

The first stage of the film sets up the mindless routine of corrupted rich boys who target the empty homes of wealthy couples; if no one one’s home, all precious contents are literally smashed, torn, and destroyed beyond recognition and restoration, but if anyone is present or happens to arrive early, the husband’s forced to watch his wife gang-raped by each masked thug.

The second stage introduces no-nonsense and borderline rogue Det. Van der Valk (Brit Bryan Marshall), a married man with kids who prefers to spend his private hours with prostitute Feodora (Canadian-born Alexandra Stewart), a woman whose connections with seedy characters ultimately helps Van der Valk find the culprits responsible for the ongoing home invasions and assaults.

Hanging out where teens and young adults frequent, Van der Valk eventually realizes the benevolent owner of a club is in fact the leader of The Cats, a gang with more than soccer and tennis on their minds. Sleek Jansen (Brit Sebastien Graham) is a master manipulator and gang leader, and his position as a modest businessman of progressive youth-oriented centres enabled the monster to cherry pick only the finest most impressionable minds to make up his anarchic troupe, which he plans to use to disrupt global world order.

The parallels between Jansen and then newly-convicted Charles Manson are highly unsubtle –Jansen’s the puppeteer who ultimately steers the group to commit the murder of one of their own – but being a European film made for a more liberal market, the Cats’ inculcation ceremony is a trippy mix of martial arts training in the nude, naked female supplicants fondling a white cat before a ritual sacrifice, and Jansen presiding over his group meetings in a room where a naked female sculpture and its nether regions are always in view, and in focus.

Star Marshall has his own full frontal moment, and the murder of a ‘cat’ consists of Sylvia Kristel (in her second feature film) luring her lover with fellow naked cult members for a midnight skinny dip and water-bound sex before drowning.

In spite of the film’s veering between distinct genre elements, Hugo Claus’ script carefully moves the plot from mindless violence to the unveiling of a preposterous global takeover scheme, and the film’s chilly tone and undercurrent of nihilism makes Because of the Cats a rather bleak crime film.

Fons Rademakers only directed a handful of films in his career – including the Oscar-winning The Assault (1986) – but Cats is no hack job. There’s a grittiness to the investigation scenes, and a concerted effort to show ill behaviour in its ugliness. The opening sexual assault is blatantly exploitive – like the husband, we’re forced to watch the group’s attack – but it’s shot and edited with a titillating edge. (The film’s trailer plays up the sexploitation quotient by specifically focusing on the sleaze, and spoils the gang’s identity as a new kind of cult.)

Ruud Bos’ score is a complete mess, though, with his jazz-lounge-rock pastiche rarely matching any scene’s tone. It’s a schizophrenic score that may on occasion drift into functionality, but more often then not it goes against the grain, sometimes making a home invasion sequence seem hip, and then drifting into a tone that’s functionally irrelevant. Bos’ main theme – an evil corkscrew vocal played over the Main and End Titles – also bears more than a passing resemblance to Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star”; the lyrics and instrumentation may be rooted in Muzak-rock, but the melody’s very, very close.

One 7 Movies’ packaging makes no mention of author Freeling, and the still of Kristel on the rear sleeve is ordered to make it appear she’s both the star and victim of violence, which isn’t the case whatsoever.

Those familiar with the label’s transfer won’t be surprised by the source material’s poor quality; instead of a ragged print transferred with heavy compression, this time it resembles a heavily compressed .avi file inflated to fill a DVD, framed at 1.77:1 instead of the film’s reported 2.35:1 ratio. This is hardly the best presentation for the film, leaving the door wide open for a proper Dutch release, or maybe a special edition in North America from an indie label like Scorpion Releasing.

Det. Van der Valk first appeared in the German film Amsterdam Affair (1968), and was followed by the German TV movie Van der Valk und das Mädchen (1972), and the debut of the Thames TV series (1972-1992). Both Because of the Cats and the German TV movie Van der Valk und die Reichen were produced in 1973, after which the character appeared in the French TV movie Pas de frontières pour l’inspecteur: Le bouc émissaire (1975).

 

 

© 2014 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
IMDB  —  Soundtrack Album  —  Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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