Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973)

Although Burt Reynolds filmed hours upon hours of cowboy stories for film and television in the ’60s, he only starred in one Western during his peak period of the 1970s and early ’80s, and the picture pales in comparison to similar films of the same period starring Reynolds’ buddy Clint Eastwood. Part of the problem is an episodic storyline with too many villains, and part of the problem is the movie’s indecision about whether it’s an action picture with a romantic subplot or a romantic drama with action scenes. It also doesn’t help that the misogyny quotient is off the charts. Reynolds plays Jay, an outlaw reeling from the rape and murder of his Native American wife, Cat Dancing. When Jay’s accomplices Billy (Bo Hopkins) and Dawes (Jack Warden) kidnap a woman (Sarah Miles) they find wandering in the wilderness, Jay prevents the thugs from raping her, and takes her with him when he abandons the gang. The woman, Catherine, is running from her monstrous husband, Crocker (George Hamilton), so eventually Jay and Catherine are stalked by Dawes, Crocker, and even a bounty hunter (Lee J. Cobb), whom Crocker hires. It’s all very convoluted, and the idea that Catherine falls for Jay because he reveals his tragic past is trite. Making matters worse, Reynolds and Miles lack chemistry, so the only sparks are between Reynolds and Warden, whose climactic confrontation is memorably brutal. A priceless actor no matter how he was cast, Warden contributes one of his most odiously villainous performances in Cat Dancing, so he’s almost worth the price of admission. The location photography is handsome, especially scenes in a snowy forest toward the end of the picture, but the narrative’s stop-and-start-rhythm prevents Cat Dancing from building up a head of emotional steam. (Available at

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing: FUNKY

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