Billy Don’t Be a Hero

When I talked about Crowhaven Farm the other day I also mentioned how the ABC Movie of the Week used to occasionally foray into horror, and that some of those made-for-TV horror movies were actually quite good; everyone remembers the scary Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black; primarily for the part with the Zuni fetish doll. I can’t remember the other two stories in that anthology movie, but that part absolutely terrified me from beginning to end, and I still remember it vividly. There was another called Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, with Kim Darby of True Grit fame, which was about little murderous monsters that lived in a house but couldn’t come out into the light. As someone with a lifelong fear of the dark, that one still haunts my dreams.

Constant Reader knows I’m an Egyptophile; have been since I was a little boy. So, today, I am going to talk about one of those movies that had a basis in Egyptian mythology and history; I barely remember anything about it, to be honest, but it was quite terrifying.

It was called The Cat Creature.

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The premise of the movie is that a very wealthy, eccentric man who liked to collect things has died. Someone is sent out to his house to catalogue and valuate his things. Down in the basement in a room are a bunch of things that no one knew he had–Egyptian antiquities, including a mummy with a big solid gold amulet around its neck. A thief has also broken into the house, and when the other guy is distracted, steals the amulet from the mummy. Then something kills the first guy, while the thief runs away with the amulet. Lots more deaths follow, including eventually the original thief–and it appears that the amulet is a lot more important than anyone thinks. An archaeology professor is brought it to consult with the police, because of the Egyptian thing, and it also appears like all of the victims were killed by an animal–a cat, specifically, and all through the movie there are cats acting strangely all the time. Meredith Baxter Birney shows up as a new girl in town, gets a job at the pawnshop where the amulet wound up, and to serve as a love interest for the archaeology professor.

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Turns out the mummy belonged to a priestess of the Egyptian goddess Bast, and the amulet has magic properties–keeping the priestess, who has eternal life, trapped in the mummy. When the thief took the amulet, the mummy came back to life–and of course, as a priestess of Bast has the ability to turn herself into a cat. She is trying to destroy the amulet, so of course she can never be trapped again.

Meredith Baxter Birney, of course, is the priestess, and when she tries to kill the archaeologist in the end, he quickly slips the amulet around the cat’s neck, turning her back into the priestess, then into the mummy again, and then her body turns to dust.

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Oscar winner Gale Sondergaard–I think she may have won the first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress; if not the first, one of the first–had a great supporting role as the pawnshop owner.

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It’s on youtube; sometime when I have time (HA!) I will watch it again. I also looked up some info on the movie just now–the plot is pretty much as I remember it, and the original story and screenplay was written by Robert Bloch!

I’ve always wanted to write a story about Egypt, and I have a y/a in the files I’ve been wanting to write for a while–revolving around a cult of Bast; and now I know where the inspiration came for it!

And now, back to the spice mines.

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