Rapists and drug pushers soon discover that this alley cat is actually a ferocious tiger in Film Ventures’ ALLEY CAT, out on DVD from Scorpion Releasing.
When a pair of car thieves (Tim Cutt [NEW YEAR’S EVIL] and Kevin Velligan) are soundly thrashed by karate-kicking Billie (Karen Mani, AVENGING ANGEL) and her gun-toting grandfather Charles (Jay Fisher, THE POWER), their drug dealer boss William Krug (Michael Wayne) – aka “Scarface” – decides to show them how it’s done: by beating and stabbing both grandpa Charles and grandma Kate (Rose Dreifus). Billie meets cute (she accidentally breaks his nose) with rookie cop Johnny (Robert Torti, TV’s THE DREW CAREY SHOW) who is sufficiently attracted to Billie to want to help her. Kate is left in a coma, but Charles is able to finger Krug; however, this amazingly falls by the wayside when Billie herself is arrested for carrying a concealed weapon – by Johnny’s corrupt senior partner Boyle (Jon Greene, MANIAC COP) – when she rescues hooker Karen (Marla Stone) from a rape attempt by the same pair of thugs who tried to steal her car. Although Boyle’s written testimony of the arrest is damning to Billie, Johnny’s vastly differing testimony and the incompetence of the “day late and a dollar short” district attorney (Robert Dennis, CAFÉ FLESH) gets Billie off with a fine and year of probation. When Karen fails to show up in court – after a visit from Krug – to testify against her attackers, they are given a smaller fine and probation for trespassing and intoxication by the same judge (Jay Walker, SCALPS); and Billie is found in contempt of court and jailed when she speaks out against the ruling. While Billie wins respect from her fellow inmates with her fighting skills and fends off the lesbian attentions of cellmate Sam (Moriah Shannon, D.C. CAB), Johnny plays dirty to get the judge to commute her sentence. Billie is released only to learn that her grandmother has died. Johnny is closing in on Krug and hoping to bust him for drug dealing; however, Billie has vigilante justice on her mind.
Although “Edward Victor” is credited solely as director in the opening credits, the end credits list Victor along with producer Victor Ordoñez and actor Al Valletta (SOLE SURVIVOR) as directors. This bespeaks of a troubled production, and “Kat Scratch Cinema” hostess Katarina Leigh Waters reveals in her post-script comments that the film was originally a Filipino production – “Edward Victor” is actually Filipino director Ed Palmos – shot in Los Angeles that ran into money problems and was shut down (incidentally, writer/producer Robert E. Waters started his career with the Filipino-shot Cirio H. Santiago films EBONY IVORY AND JADE, COVER GIRL MODELS, DEATH FORCE and VAMPIRE HOOKERS). Film Ventures picked it up and finished it, presumably with Valletta at the helm and calling back the main actors since the end credits also list Mani, Torti, Greene, Wayne and Claudia Decea – who plays Billie’s neighbor Rose – as associate producers). Film Ventures’ in-house editor/producer Igo Kantor re-edited the film – NEW YEAR’S EVIL director Emmet Alston is credited as “editorial consultant” – and replaced the music score with library tracks (presumably some of them came from his own works). The music score is all over the place, sometimes sounding like a 1970s TV action show and sometimes 1980s softcore (IMDb credits Filipino composer Quito Colayco – who later scored Alston’s TIGERSHARK – but the film credits only cite “music supervision” by Kantor and Doug Lackey [SWAMP GIRL]).
The editing and possible reshooting is similarly patchy and sometimes abrupt (speaking of abrupt, it looks like either Kantor or the original editor tried to apply some Peter Hunt-type “jump cut” edits during one of the fight scenes, and it doesn’t work at all) although it’s hard to tell which scenes might have been added. The jail scenes introduce a brief “women in prison” angle, and the lesbian come-on scenes in the shower and the cell are prime exploitation; and yet they could also have been introduced to pad the short-ish running time. It also seems that a female jogger can expect to get assaulted on a regular basis in Los Angeles public parks based on the recurring scenes here (so much so that in the last one it seems as if Billie intentionally went there looking to blow off some steam by pummeling a pair of anonymous creeps). The fight scenes suffer from poor coverage and editing; however, Mani and Torti acquit themselves well in the action scenes and are likable – if sometimes uneven – leads while Wayne and Greene are suitably vile. Decea’s neighbor character seems to have been added to provide some comic relief more than emotional support, but more scenes with her may either have been cut or not filmed before production shut down. Requiring no emotional investment or identification (visceral or otherwise) with the injustices suffered by the good guys, ALLEY CAT plays like the undemanding cousin of SAVAGE STREETS.
Scorpion Releasing’s progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is mastered in HD from the film’s original interpositive elements. A few rare shots exhibit some scratches – including some presumably caused in-camera or in the processing since the reverse angles are clean – but the transfer is as colorful as the film’s generally drab wardrobe and décor allow (I’ll blame the heavy grain of some of the night scenes on the overall quality of production of the original shoot before shutdown). In her introduction, Katarina Leigh Waters points out the career highlights of Mani, Torti, Britt Helfer (SURF II) – third-billed presumably for her nudity – and writer/producer Robert E. Waters' later career producing softcore erotic thrillers like NIGHT EYES 3, SNAPDRAGON and ILLICIT DREAMS before his death in 1999. She does not mention that the film was one of the few DP assignments for Howard Anderson III whose grandfather founded the long-lived optical effects house Howard Anderson Company in 1927.
Water’s interview with Igo Kantor (26:19) gets discussion of ALLEY CAT out of the way quickly since Kantor states categorically that he was only involved in the film’s post-production; however, the featurette then includes discussion of several other key titles in his filmography. Kantor was previously interviewed in a featurette on Scorpion’s magnificent two disc set of THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, but he was not included in the special features for KILL AND KILL AGAIN, the sequel to the Film Ventures pick-up KILL OR BE KILLED that Kantor was entrusted to produce by Montoro who gave him a blank check and sent him to South Africa in search of the star, the director, and other talent from the first film; as such the interview also fills in some gaps. He also discusses Film Venture’s MUTANT and THE DARK (on both of which Kantor would end up replacing the original directors – Mark Rosman and Tobe Hooper, respectively – with production manager John “Bud” Cardos, and assuming that position himself), as well as a more succinct summation of his contributions to pick-up HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (trimming for pacing and replacing the original score with one by Richard Band conducting the London Symphony Orchestra) before moving onto anecdotes about working for Ed Wood on BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, Russ Meyer (including his two Twentieth-Century-Fox pics BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and THE SEVEN MINUTES), and Jane Fonda on F.T.A. (on which the actress demanded an all-female-crew, which meant that production manager Cardos also had do the heavy lifting of the equipment). The interview concludes with Kantor discussing his latest project IN THE SHADOW OF WINGS which seems to be making some progress out of development hell (it was originally announced back in 2005 with HERCULES IN NEW YORK’s Arthur Allan Seidelman at the helm and Virginia Madsen in the lead). Besides the film’s trailer (1:21), trailers for SAVAGE STREETS, KILL AND KILL AGAIN, JOYSTICKS, MALIBU HIGH, BODY MELT, THE POM POM GIRLS, TOMBOY, DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE and DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE are also included. (Eric Cotenas)
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