In my Strays (1991) article, I made the point that it’s pretty much impossible to make cats scary thus leading to many belly laughs whenever a film attempts it. You can imagine my joy when I read the title The Night of a Thousand Cats… a thousand fucking cats. Joy is in fact the wrong word. I honestly felt dizzy as my eyes scanned across “A Thousand Cats“. A hundred cats would have been enough to get me excited, a thousand seemed unimaginable, perhaps even too many. Hands shaking as I pressed play on my DVD player, I puked all over myself from delirious anticipation as the director’s credit appeared: René Cardona Jr.. Many Mondo Exploito readers will recognise Cardona’s name. A legend of Mexican exploitation, Cardona was at the helm of Night of the Bloody Apes (1969) – a film that resides somewhere in my top five best-worst movies – and a bajillion more steaming nuggets. There was no way The Night of a Thousand Cats was going to outdo Bloody Apes, but Cardona’s name at least guaranteed that it would to deliver stellar giggles.


original title: La noche de los mil gatos
Mexico, 1972, René Cardona Jr.

Christ almighty. Where do I start? The Night of a Thousand Cats has only a few dribbles of a plot and is cut together like an arty first year student project. Cardona jumps back and forth through space and time seemingly without any rational whatsoever. Suddenly a camera will zoom in on a severed head in a jar and we’ll get an entirely unnecessary – but fantastically odd – flashback of the victim’s final hours. But like Cardona, I’m getting ahead of myself, I should dish out an overview of this film’s shambolic story. Hugo (Hugo Stiglitz) is a bearded millionaire playboy. The ladies love him, despite his nihilistic outlook, his habit of annoying people with his helicopter and his tongueless servant. Before too long, these unsuspecting women end up part of his “collection”. Established through some early exposition, Hugo has a history of mental illness, receiving electroshock therapy as a boy. Free from electroshock, Hugo has taken up in the family mansion and has maintained his grandfather’s hunting collection. Tired of shooting birds, Hugo stalks women in his helicopter. After removing their heads and storing them in formaldehyde, Hugo feeds the rest of the ladies to a thousand cats that he keeps cooped up in a sort of cat dungeon. Once his methods are revealed, The Night of a Thousand Cats follows Hugo as he stalks two new victims in his helicopter. Did I mention he has a helicopter?

Hugo’s cat dungeon

Hey! Look out, ladies! (No, seriously, look out… he’s a murderer)

First of all, I must address the most obvious flaw in Hugo’s plan. Cats. Reading that synopsis, you would assume Hugo has an affinity towards cats. Well, he doesn’t. I mean, he really doesn’t. Hugo likes throwing cats across rooms and drowning them in pools. Nope, Hugo seems to hate cats. This begs the question, why use cats to dispose of dead bodies? Surely that is seriously inefficient. Cats are picky eaters, even when hungry, and having them chow down a corpse would be no easy task. Hugo has to mulch the bodies to a mince and toss it piece by piece to the cats. Fucking hell! Get a thousand dogs, pal! It would be much easier. It’s also quite amazing that Hugo has managed to kill anyone, let alone dispose of a body. This guy is not exactly stealthy. As I mentioned, he has an extremely loud and irritating helicopter that he uses to scope out babes. The reason I draw attention to the helicopter is that – and I’m not kidding – about eighty percent of this film revolves around Hugo flying his helicopter. By the end of The Night of a Thousand Cats, even the biggest of aviation fans will develop an intense hatred of helicopters. My favourite helicopter related moment is where a future victim refers to our leading man as “an idiot with a helicopter” – that would have been a more appropriate title for the film.

You are impressing no one with that fucking helicopter

Really? The thousand cats weren’t a giveaway that your boyfriend’s a nut?

I briefly mentioned Cardona’s bizarre structuring, but I really have to praise his equally absurd editing and filming techniques. The Night of a Thousand Cats contains a lot of hysterically inappropriate slow motion that begins with a magical scene of horse-riding. Some scenes are enhanced by this uber-slowmo – a chase sequence looks borderline stylish when overcranked – others, not so much. Scattered throughout the film are brilliantly out of context shots of cats in slow-motion; sometimes these will pop up in the middle of the scene, disrupting the flow and creating big laughs. Cardona gives the film a hallucinatory atmosphere and his two crowning achievements of stylistic stupidity are perfect examples. First, we have a scene where a woman envisions her husband in place of Hugo while playing golf and, secondly, there’s Cardona’s awe-inspiring sex scenes, which cut rapidly to images of stuffed animals.

Who would have thought a game of golf could say so much about a cheating woman’s guilt?

Wait till the last second of this one, just when you think the stuffed animal cutaways are over…

A complete and utter clusterfuck of a film, the total disregard for any sort of logic in The Night of a Thousand Cats has to be respected. With its catatonic and unlikable lead and its mental premise, it’s hard not to feel a little blown away while watching this. The Night of a Thousand Cats crescendos to an unbelievable cat-infested finale that had me giggling with glee as cats literally flew across the screen. I must say this though, and sorry for ending on a depressing note, one thing that really irks me about The Night of a Thousand Cats (and pretty much any other exploitation film of the 70s that features animals) is the obvious animal cruelty. Yes, I know this was forty years ago, but I hate seeing animals being abused. While this is not on the level of the horrific cat scene from Men Behind the Sun (1988), there were moments in this that pissed me off – the aforementioned cat-flinging and the cruel dunking of a cat in a pool. The feline abuse adds a touch of sadness to the proceedings, especially if any had to give their lives to such a stupid film.

Too many cats