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FELIDAE (1994).

A cartoon mystery starring felines who talk to each other? Don't cringe too quickly, because this German animated feature is a far cry from spineless kid-fare like THE ARISTOCATS. Based on the cult novel by Akif Pirincci and directed by Michael Schaack, it's an imaginative, disturbing and ex-tremely adult thriller. Filled with red herrings and dark secrets, this hard-boiled tale avoids anthropomorphic creations (sorry, the cats don't walk upright and wear clothes), in favor of a naturalistic approach -- which makes their twisted story even more engrossing. Though originally in German, this copy was English dubbed, but it seems like a fair translation... Francis is an inquisitive tomcat, whose owner moves them to a new neighborhood. Learning that several area felines have been recently murdered, with their throats viciously shredded, Francis investigates, aided by the tough, one-eyed Bluebeard. While these attacks are blamed on a "can opener" (their term for humans, since that's all we're good for), Francis suspects otherwise, amidst more kitty-corpses and bizarre twists -- including a suicidal cat sect; a blind femme named Felicity; a secret graveyard; and videos of graphic cat-experimentation performed by a crazy scientist. And since these victims were all prowling for a specific female in heat, could this be a four-legged BASIC INSTINCT? If this complex mystery weren't difficult enough, Francis also deals with vicious rival cats, and like any decent private eye, takes a time-out to shag a pussy who (literally) shoves her ass into his face. It all leads to a prophet named Felidae, the high priest Claudandus, a theme of "racial purity" (which is particularly potent, considering its German origins), and a climax that's both exciting and thought-provoking. Let's not forget about the animation, which is outstanding. A rooftop chase, with dozens of cats in pursuit, puts Disney to shame; while Francis' violent nightmares provide the most outrageously surreal images since the golden age of Bakshi. The violence is particularly grisly at times (such as when a cat is found with its head ripped off), so by all means, round up any impressionable children and treat 'em to a matinee. It's no wonder that this beautifully cruel and tragic yarn never had a US release. In today's world of simple-minded cartoon-dreck, it never had a chance.

© 2001 by Steven Puchalski.