PUSS ‘N BOOTS
(1963), Color/Scope, 86 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Presented by K. Gordon Murray
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Manuel San Fernando
Casting Director: Ivan Kivitt
Editor: J.R. Remy
Cast: Rafael Munoz/El Enano Santanon (Puss), Humberto Dupeyron, Antonio Raxel, Armando Gutierrez (the Ogre Frederick), Rocio Rosales, Edmundo Benitez
PUSS ‘N BOOTS is one of the great Mexican fairy tales, second only to LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS in its outlandish horror film sensibility, and turned into surreal high art by way of its title character and bizarre dubbing.
The Perrault fairy tale is so twisted out of shape as to be a wholly new, unearthly fable. In the first five minutes, we are treated to a crummy song, a hideously obese ogre who foams at the mouth like a madman, his inferno-like cave of eternal torment and his 400-pound retarded son, named “Butterball,” whose only line is “Whatever you say, papa dear!” As a bonus we get to see a man tortured to death! Welcome to fairyland, Murray style!
In addition to the disgusting drooling ogre and his retarded son, we have the completely diabolical title character. From the second it starts talking, as a real feline, until the second it is transformed back from the mangy dwarf-suited thing, we know that this little critter is the devil himself. His voice is perhaps the most obnoxiously grating caricature in cinema history, an evil achievement in itself. His endless excruciating “meows” are screeched as if by a real cat being choked to death. And the puny plush imp runs about as if in the throes of drug or demon possession, or both, at times prancing about on all fours like a ludicrous midget in heat, at other times galloping through the woods in fast motion photography, making weird little grunts, accompanied by unearthly slide-whistle slithers. Puss’ actions in general define the word “wired.”
It’s obvious that this funny demon is in control of time, and able to manipulate men’s minds. When they first see him, the villagers say, “Hey, it’s a giant talking cat!” But nobody goes one step further and says, “That’s the stupidest-looking giant talking cat I ever saw! And will you shut up already!” People take this impossible creature at face value, so he is obviously a master hypnotist.
Add to this the incredible “chicken” rooster, an ugly fleck-n-feather construct who’s afraid of its own shadow, and you have as creepy a pair as the notorious Ferocious Wolf and Stinky the Skunk. The rooster’s mercy song is an all-time crowd pleaser.
The other tunes ain’t bad (good) either, from the harmony-less “I am Randy the shep-herd” to the completely tune-less and mumbled “We are Companions Three” sung by Rooster, Puss and Randy in a bizarre overlapping mess that renders each voice indistinguishable, to the lethargic “When I am Feeling Downhearted and Gloomy” song of the pudgy, depressed princess. This last song is replete with singing flowers, thanks to an incredibly bad, primitive synthesizer chorus which is completely and utterly indecipherable.
The ogre’s cave is a traumatic delight, what with things like rotting prisoners chained to walls and goofy fire-belching dragons. The haunted forest has all kinds of grotesque demons peeking from behind trees and bushes. Mother Time, a scary old hag, lives in a creepy rock candy palace, as shepherd Randy learns when he licks one of the huge glistening stalactites. The king’s castle ain’t much better. Fat citizens rip the life out of whole chickens in a ghastly orgy that makes rooster-boy shiver, as would anyone in a similar situation.
Puss conquers the ogre and finds true love in a little white cat (she wears a ribbon so we’re sure it’s a girl). Somehow, the sight of a quivering dwarf in a ratty costume molesting a poor little pussy is deliciously perverse.
As in many of the Mexican-Murray fractured fairy tales, there’s a short nude bathing scene when shepherd Randy washes himself to become his alter ego, the Marquis of Calibas.
The dubbing is stultifying throughout, muddy and fragmented, with grunts and half-sentences creating a largely incomprehensible pastiche of demented babble. Puss’ wailings in general are much more unnerving than Regan’s inane spouting in THE EXORCIST. (Note: View this movie really loud for maximum disorienting effect.)
PUSS ‘N BOOTS is truly a great motion picture fantasy, frightening, deranged and compelling in turns, unbelievable in the best sense of the word, much scarier than anything crud-slingers Wes Craven or Stephen King or John Carpenter ever dreamt of in their overrated wet dreams. Those wheezy hacks could take a lesson from this gothic nightmare fable.
* (effective 05-01-03) After a very brief window of availability, this long-sought K. Gordon Murray title is once again out of print, due to international copyright issues. Used video tapes of this title may be found on online video dealers and auction sites. Stay tuned for further developments!
* According to the Azteca Films Database, EL GATO CON BOTAS was finished on October 03, 1960, and premiered on September 14, 1961.
* This was one of K. Gordon Murray’s biggest mass-market hits, playing almost as many theaters as SANTA CLAUS, an admirable feat he was not able to duplicate with his later German fairy tales.
* Murray’s rival Childhood Productions released their own live-action version of PUSS N’ BOOTS in 1967, a re-dubbed release of a mediocre 1955 German fantasy.
* According to AFI, PUSS ‘N BOOTS had its US premiere on March 7, 1964, in New York.