Monday, September 7, 2015

Movie Tonight: The Cat From Outer Space

Today is another, overdue installment of a segment we call "Movie Tonight", where we discuss a movie with particularly notable M*A*S*H connections.

The film in question for today is the 1979 Disney movie The Cat From Outer Space, which I remember my Mom taking me to in the theaters:

The reason we're discussing it here is the cast. Aside from family film stalwarts like Ken Berry and Sandy Duncan, TCFOS features no less than both 4077 commanders, Harry (Col. Potter) Morgan and McLean (Henry Blake) Stevenson! Even better, they share some scenes like together, like this one early in the movie:

As the title suggests, the plot concerns an alien that comes to Earth, that just happens to look like a kitty cat. Morgan is a blustery general who thinks this is the beginning of an alien invasion, and Stevenson is a kind but befuddled doctor who works alongside Berry and Duncan. There's a long scene where Morgan gets to yell at everyone, the first of three or four scenes where both M*A*S*H actors share the screen.

There's various hi-jinx involving Berry and the cat, ending with the alien feline (named Jake) applying for U.S. citizenship! That's where another M*A*S*H veteran comes in: Sorrell Booke, who at the time was famous for being Boss Hogg, but nevertheless appeared as General Barker in Season 1 of the show:

While expecting a lot of from a piece of product like The Cat From Outer Space is a little too much, it's a shame that this movie is so lifeless. Just because a movie is for kids doesn't mean it has to be bad, and all the proceedings here are so dull that it's a shame such a talented cast is wasted (including Roddy McDowall, who spends so much of the movie by himself I'm betting he shot almost all of his scenes over a weekend, then headed off for another Apes project). As we know, Harry Morgan could be very funny, even when playing a mean guy, but here he's just a one-note jerk. Stevenson comes off a little better, but he's playing second fiddle to Ken Berry. Sheesh.

Part of the reason I find these movies with M*A*S*H connections even worthy of noting is, I wonder what the cast conversations were like when they weren't filming? By this time, the show was in its fifth season, and more popular than ever. At the same time, it was obvious that Stevenson's decision to leave M*A*S*H dealt his career a catastrophic blow. Did Harry and McLean chat around the craft services table? Did McLean look at Harry and think "Man, what did I do..."?

Speaking of M*A*S*H connections, there's yet another one: TCFOS was directed by Disney go-to guy Norman Tokar, who helmed Season 2's "Five O'Clock Charlie", one of the funniest shows that season! So the guy knew funny, he just didn't really deliver that here. As I mentioned above, I saw this in the theater, and I think even then I caught the M*A*S*H connection, which probably just confused me.

And that's the Movie Tonight!

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