Cathy’s Curse Blu-ray Review: Here She Comes, It’s Cathy’s Cursed Rag Doll

I stumbled upon Cathy’s Curse (1977) in one of those legendary 50 horror movie sets from Mill Creek that included all kinds of wacky, bad movies that fell into the public domain. Cathy’s Curse was one of the real gems of the bunch, even though its picture was blurry and it made little sense. It’s clearly an Exorcist-inspired, odd mixture of horror genres like the supernatural, demonic possession, ghost story, and haunted house movies. Its U.S. release was needlessly edited (from 91 minutes to 82) and at the time I had no idea a “director’s cut” even existed and with these types of movies, I could only hope one day some home entertainment company would find a way to restore it. Enter Severin Films and their new 4K/Blu-ray release of Cathy’s Curse that includes both versions and all kinds of cool extras. 

Buy Cathy’s Curse (2-Disc Collector’s Edition)

The plot goes thus…we learn through a restored prologue that toddler George Gimble (never shown) is taken away from his home by his mother when he was four. Why? No one knows. What we do know is that it caused his father to grab his young sister, Laura, and speed off down the road where they are soon killed in a fiery car crash. Thirty years later, we’re told that the grown George (Alan Scarfe) has returned with his wife, Vivian (Beverly Murray), and eight-year-old daughter, the titular Cathy (Randi Allen). Upon arrival, Cathy awakens some spirit that has lain dormant in the house and seems to be living in an old rag doll that had its eyes sewn shut and once belonged to Laura. Cathy now becomes controlled or possessed by the doll, or along with it. That’s never really made clear. Either way, Cathy and her new dolly begin to harass her mother, who has already suffered a recent nervous breakdown. Vivian is eventually sent for a quick stay at the “looney bin” and Cathy starts tormenting and knocking off anyone who suspects the doll has been set to evil.

The nanny (Dorothy Davis) gets flung out a second-story window, the dog gets torn up, and the groundskeeper, Paul (Roy Witham), is tortured with booze-fueled visions of snakes, rats, and spiders before he’s telepathically killed one night trying to dispose of the devil doll. After Vivian’s return from the nut house, she again suffers some illness and mumbles through a fever dream that the doll must be destroyed and once she snaps out of it, storms off to Cathy’s room for the final confrontation. Cathy is now fully possessed and transformed into the demonic, badly burned Laura. Vivian proceeds to literally wrestle with the girl to get the doll away from her and rips the threads from its bleeding eyes. Now that the doll’s eyes are open this seems to end all the trouble and restores things back to good after some violent house shaking. The End. Tra la la la la. 

That’s it. That’s Cathy’s Curse in a nutshell and it doesn’t make too much sense but I love it as it is. There’s plot holes and inconsistencies like stars in the sky and not even the director’s cut makes things much clearer. There’s a detective that shows up like he’s about to play an important role and suspects the dog’s behavior may hold some clue as to what’s going on but nope, dead end, we never see him again. There’s a psychic medium who tags along with a neighbor and her kids for a play date with Cathy and things get really supernatural from there. The medium senses something very wrong in the house and finds some information while in the city. We actually never learn what that info is because she’s scared off in a good scene where she encounters a decaying image of herself before crying, “I won’t tell,” and fleeing in fright. She’s never heard from again and it’s never revealed what secret she’s uncovered. The story is like the Winchester house, so many doors that simply lead to nowhere and seem pointless. 

What Cathy’s Curse does possess is an eerie, atmospheric quality throughout, although at times a bit silly but it also has some genuine creepy scenes. The acting is solid if a bit quirky but for this type of fare, it totally works well. Randi Allen nails the obscenity-spewing Cathy role and does a fine job in her sole big-screen outing. She makes the sinister little girl with dark powers gained by a demonic doll as believable as possible without being goofy, stiff, or melodramatic. She even manages to be sweet from time to time as needed. Playing opposite a rag doll pulled along by fishing wire and making things convincing is tough work for any actor but she pulls it off. Scarfe as Georgie does all he can to make the man a lovable husband and father. Murray brings out the stress and frazzled nerves of a high-strung mother who has recently lost a child, which we find out in the director’s cut, and is bearing the brunt of Cathy’s curse. Well…aside from those Cathy kills, that is. The supporting cast holds up the corners of the canvas just as well and help push the story to its odd finish. 

The major difference between the two versions, besides runtime, lies mostly at the beginning of the picture where some story-building scenes have been restored. Those missing scenes help set up the plot a bit more as we learn why George has brought his family back to the home he barely knew as a toddler. What remains unclear is why sister Laura’s spirit has turned bad and possesses little Cathy. One is left to assume it’s because she’s upset at her mother for leaving and causing her father’s rage that ultimately led to her tragic end and now she’s taking it out on her brother’s wife? But how and why she became a demon with an ominous warped voice is yet another dead-end question to ponder. 

Not only does Severin provide an absolutely amazing restoration of Cathy’s Curse, both versions, they have loaded this edition with special features that are fun, informative and much appreciated. There are interviews with stars Alan Scarfe and Randi Allen and as well as her real mum who was on set during filming as a wardrobe consultant. There’s a great interview with director Eddy Matalon, which further helps to shine light on what the hell is actually trying to happen during his movie, which was mostly a French production filmed in Canada. The audio commentary by Brian Collins, who found the movie the same way I did, buried on a 50-movie pack, and Simon Barrett is fun and a bit informative before they settle into their drinks and goofing around. To be fair, they did expect this Blu-ray release to have a second commentary track with Matalon that would have been the serious track. Alas, another dead-end lead for Cathy’s Curse. Well played, lads. 

Special Features include: 

  • Audio Commentary by Fangoria Contributor Brian Collins and Filmmaker Simon Barrett (U.S. cut only)
  • Tricks and Treats – Interview with Director Eddy Matalon
  • Cathy’s Daddy – Alan Scarfe Remembers Cathy’s Curse
  • Cathy and Mum – Interview with Actress Randi Allen and Costume Designer Joyce Allen
  • Introduction to the Cinematic Void/American Cinematheque Screening by Brian Collins
  • Theatrical Trailer 
  • Booklet by Simon Barrett and Brian Collins

Cathy’s Curse has haunted me since I first watched that blurry DVD copy on that booze-filled night many years ago. It captured me then and holds me even more captive now that I can see clearly the buildings and set decorations in the background. The story even makes a bit more sense now with the restored scenes. Severin gets all the cheers for making this one possible and bringing happiness to the die-hard Cathy fans out there in the world. 

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Joe Garcia III

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