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Monday, August 6, 2012

Godfrey Ho Appreciation Month - Let's Talk About Catman!

Cartoon by Christopher McElfresh

Catman in Lethal Track (1990)

Godfrey Ho is well known for his ninja films, but he also took a stab at other action sub-genres as well.  Case in point: Catman.  Catman is a recurring character who had reportedly only appeared in two Godfrey Ho films.  The first, which told of Catman’s origins is called Catman in Lethal Track (1990).  The second one, which had Catman pursuing a dangerous cult leader with Soviet connections, was titled Catman in Boxer’s Blow (1993).  In true Godfrey Ho fashion, these films were both released under one of Ho’s many, many pseudonyms and were also spliced in with two completely different and unrelated Hong Kong martial arts movies then redubbed to make them both “work... together..?”

Catman in Lethal Track, being the first and most essential film in his repertoire, glosses over the character’s origins and gives us a hint at who this character really is.  Of course, it’s Godfrey Ho so comprehensibility is often cast aside in lieu of more... entertaining pursuits.  Bear with me, here, this is going to get preeeety retarded.

The origins of Catman begin with bravery.  Two agents are walking along when they witness two junkies in the process of robbing a delivery truck with only one piece of cargo.  Are you ready for this...?  It’s a radioactive cat.  Yep.  Apparently we just carry those around in regular old pet cages.  Ho, attempting to get as close to ripping off Spiderman as he can without getting his ass sued off by Marvel Comics, then proceeds to give us some of the most awesome 90 minutes of film you will ever see in your entire life.  I am not kidding here.  I’m only going to focus on Catman’s story points as the irrelevant other film really just detracts from how awesome the titular hero is.  

Anyway, the two agents decide to intervene and, using the baseball bats they were carrying, (Presumably either for batting practice or for their audition of the stage performance of The Warriors) take on the two thugs.  During their engagement with the two punks, one of the agents gets scratched by the radioactive cat and is imbued with superpowers.  Over the course of the next few scenes we get Catman exploring his newfound abilities like the power to turn a TV on and off...

Catman and his buddy go on a crime-fighting escapade and ultimately face off against the gang the thugs they owned in the beginning of the film belong to.  Of course, the heroes (or the screenplay, however you decide to like at it) are really dumb and get led right into a trap, end up chained to trees and are preparing to be turned into ground chuck by explosive rounds.  Catman, however, is invincible and the explosion doesn’t kill him, it merely gives him the cover to slip his chains and vanish.  He breaks his buddy’s chains and runs into the brush leaving his friend to get turned into swiss cheese by about forty rounds of automatic fire.  Of course, the friend is totally okay and gets back up and runs away.

From here we see Catman and his buddy fight off the baddies, picking them out one by one in the clearing of the woods.  Note, judging by the timing of the scenes that led up to the heroes being brought to the woods, they’re probably just about a mile from a major metropolitan area and anyone can hear the reenactment of Platoon that is going on in the city’s backyard.  HA!  But, details!  Who gives a crap about details?!

The second film, Catman in Boxer’s Blow, is a lot weaker, with less fun badness and more sloppiness.  The plot involves Catman and his partner looking into a deranged cult leader who is part of a deadly Soviet ring.  Really, in my opinion, the funniest part of this film is how they start off this movie with their own M, in the form of a chubby politician who gives them their mission.  Boxer’s Blow is just weaksauce, lacking the laughs of the first one, still, it is Catman!

If you haven’t guessed yet, I think Catman is awesome.  He is one of the goofiest superheroes I’ve ever seen played straight and I just love how Catman-actor Jonathan Isgar hams up each performance with the typical hero cliches like posing with his fists on his hips and wearing a getup that is both goofy and epic.  The one liners are pretty great too, spouting off lines that would have been dated in 1965 like, “It looks like we’ve seen the last of our old friend!”  Watch these movies.  Both are in the public domain (as are many of Ho’s films) and are very much worth your time, Lethal Track in particular.  If you like fun, bad action movies, they really don’t get much better than this.

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