Cathy's Curse (1977) Blu-ray Review: Still Cursed and Still Curse-Worthy

Canada's strange 'Exorcist' rip-off receives a beautiful restoration thanks to Severin Films.
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Apparently, nary a nation capable of manufacturing a motion picture during the 1970s was immune to the phenomenal success of William Friedkin's The Exorcist. Sadly, the otherwise reputable country of Canada was among the list of offenders in the post-Exorcist wave of rip-off cinema that followed once the 1973 blockbuster traveled abroad, exorcising their right to cash-in on the horror subgenre of demonic possession with a tale of their own. Unfortunately, the resulting motion picture, Cathy's Curse lacked most of the enjoyable qualities better-known, less-reputable knock-offs from other countries possessed.

To imply Cathy's Curse is slow would be something of an understatement. To subtly hint that it may not be the best Exorcist clone ever made might underplay the film's clumsiness ever so slightly. And yet, underneath all of the very noticeable flaws, Cathy's Curse has managed to build up a cult following since its tiny little 1977 debut in Canada. By the time the film was released by the schlockmeisters at 21st Century Distributors in 1980, the filthy soul of the demonic possession craze had pretty much been cleansed completely, leaving the film to primarily be discovered by curious movie enthusiasts at video stores.

And that was pretty much the only way anyone who was brave enough to endure Cathy's Curse could have seen it for a great many years. Even the subsequent DVD releases ‒ which were plentiful, as the movie had either fallen into the public domain or was just unpopular enough that no one truly cared enough to file a copyright infringement suit ‒ were culled from earlier analog issues which were even dreadful by VHS standards of the time. Fortunately for film aficionados with questionable taste, Cathy's Curse has received a brand new opportunity to mesmerize bad movie lovers everywhere thanks to the hard working folks at Severin Films.

Helmed by filmmaker Eddy Matalon, who frequently directed artsy sexploitation and pornographic features back in his native France, Cathy's Curse opens with a flashback to 1947, where an angry father proudly shouts out misogynistic slurs about his daughter mother, who has run off with their son, presumably to save him from his father's positive influence ‒ shortly before the pair are killed in an automobile accident. Thirty years later, the son, George (Alan Scarfe), returns to the family estate along with his wife Vivian (Beverly Murray) and their daughter Cathy (Randi Allen), the latter of whom has caught the unwanted attention of George's dead sister.

This opens the door for one poorly-framed moment of shock to another, as the tormented Cathy takes possession of a creepy little doll as her evil auntie from beyond takes possession of her. To this extent, Cathy is bestowed with the enviable gifts of teleportation, making sexist slurs (thank you, dad), and the ability to induce severe cases of alcohol delirium upon the estate's alcoholic caretaker, whom George seems to think is perfectly suited to babysit his preteen daughter. Even as people die and Cathy begins to cuss up quite the storm (perhaps the title is a double entendre?), George still can't seem to commit to much more than committing his horrified wife to the hospital.

In a nutshell, that's about all Cathy's Curse has to offer. There's a little bit of (not too terribly shabby) gore to be had here, and a very brief (accidental) shot of mum's left nipple as she fights imaginary leeches in a blood-filled bathtub (don't get too excited over that prospect, I beg of you: that scene is just as stupid as any of the others). Apart from that, most of Cathy's curse lies in its unwitting capacity to unintentional amuse its viewers, especially during the exciting* [*excitement not guaranteed] climax** [**climax not guaranteed] when Cathy and Vivian wrassle after mum walks in to find her daughter sporting one of the worst demonic makeup jobs ever.

Strangely, Cathy's Curse has a better cast than many of its competitor clones did. Well, perhaps I should say "I've seen worse acting in better films." Most of the cast (which includes total nobodies to future professionals to community theater rejects alike) never went very far, but I honestly can't cast any stones against them for appearing in Cathy's Curse. Even the weird woman who plays the medium that had a part in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane the year before is "comfortably" over the top, particularly during a scene where she is taunted by her own evil doppleganger. Sure, the acting is bad, but at least it's better than the story itself!

Then again, I could be entirely mistaken on that theory. Frankly, I was too busy trying to figure out just how many other actors Alan Scarfe reminded me during various scenes in the film, since the English-born actor has an uncanny ability to bear more than a passing resemblance to at least five different actors at any point in the movie, including (but not solely limited to) Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, David Hyde Pierce, Kevin Kline, Hugh Grant, and Harry Andrews. Scarfe would later pop up in a '90s episode of Columbo, thus giving him more credibility than most of his peers here, and has appeared in many cult sci-fi TV shows.

Previously, the best-looking print of Cathy's Curse was a slightly cropped widescreen print that aired on television somewhere. But those days are long behind us now, as Severin Films has proudly unveiled the Canucksploitation cult classic in an all-new restoration from recently unearthed original film elements. Most likely the best it'll ever look (you certainly can't do anything about the movie itself), the amazing new 2k scan of this would-be artsy schlocker is now so crisp and clear that you'll spot even more flaws in it to laugh at! And if that's not enough, you can watch Cathy curse via both the original director's cut, and the eviscerated US theatrical edit.

If you've never seen Cathy's Curse before (and there's a substantially high probability you haven't), the unedited Canadian cut is probably a good starting point, as director Eddy Matalon's attempt at being artistic with his project are more apparent here, giving the film the same sort of vibe you'd find in an Andy Milligan flick (take that for what it's worth, kids). The US cut, shorn of a good nine minutes when compared to the original, removes mostly moments of extended dialogue, but manages to retain all of the stupidity. (Frankly, I find it surprising 21st Century didn't completely re-edit the movie to make it more like other Exorcist rip-offs).

Both cuts (which are presented in widescreen) are taken from the same newly restored print, while two instances of explanatory title cards in the US version (the movie makes little to no sense, so I guess 21st Century felt they were doing us a favor there or something), but it's obvious said snippets have been extracted from lesser 4x3 (read: VHS) sources. The included trailer (from 21st Century's edited-down US release) is a similar reconstruction, sporting two (noticeable) scenes from the only available VHS preview (I think they should have left the preview as-in just to show us how much of an improvement this new edition is, but that's just minor nitpicking on my part.

Ultimately, the real attraction here is the film itself. But there's more than just two cuts of a bad movie to appeal to fans, as Severin Films miraculously managed to track down the film's child actress star, Randi Allen (who never made another film) for a fun and informative dual-interview with her and her real-life mother, Joyce Allen, who served as the film's wardrobe mistress. Eddy Matalon also found time from his busy retirement to provide a few thoughts on the subject in a separate interview. An audio commentary for the US cut is provided by writer/critic (and more importantly, diehard fan) Brian W. Collins, who is joined for the session by filmmaker Simon Barrett.

The aforementioned Mr. Collins also appears in an introduction to the film from a Cinematic Void Screening from American Cinematheque, where he appears along with some inebriated hipster clad in a dress (because he's Cathy, you see). Obviously, this special feature will only appeal to some audiences. But then again, I think the very same thing could be said for Cathy's Curse!

Recommended, but most certainly not because it's good.

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