Welcome to Commentary Commentary, our long-running series of articles exploring the things we can learn from the most interesting filmmaker commentaries available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Cathy’s Curse (1976)
Commentators: Simon Barrett (filmmaker), Brian Collins (critic/author)
1. This original cut features opening text that Collins (who also creates credits for TV/film) apparently recreated, and they’ve finally given Barrett the opportunity to read all nineteen words. They’re not present in the longer director’s cut. “I’ve never seen the longer cut,” says Barrett “and I won’t because I’m patriotic.”
2. The onscreen text was added by the distributors to explain the footage they cut for its release.
3. Barrett (and Collins?) recorded a “fan” commentary for the films years ago.
4. Barrett wonders about the Venn Diagram including people who are fans of the film and happen to know who both he and Collins are. “It’s like two specks that you can’t tell if they’re the same or not.”
5. “You know and I know that I’ve had a nervous breakdown” is Barrett’s favorite line from the film. “That is such great exposition because it’s just like brutal.” He refers to it whenever a film includes a line of dialogue that none of the characters need to hear but that’s instead meant solely for the audience.
6. Collins agrees with one of the cuts made to this version (but restored in the director’s cut), and it’s the bit where Cathy goes upstairs and opens the attic door. The longer version sees her trying to open every door in sight – like five or six of them – before settling on the attic door.
7. The film first came to Collins’ attention back in 2007 when he was running a site called Horror Movie A Day where he watched and reviewed a horror movie every day. It was before the age of instant streaming via Netflix and Amazon so he often had to dig deep for titles to cover. “So I bought this budget [DVD] pack called the Chilling Classics Set from Mill Creek,” he says, and it’s what he used as a quick go-to when he didn’t have another title at the ready.
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8. They love noticing little details that were never visible before until Severin’s sharp new transfer. One example is the painting with the girl’s eyes that glow… when they’re not lit it’s very clear that there are light bulbs present.
9. In case you’re wondering why the neighbor is still pleasant even after Cathy tries to blind one of her kids Barrett has the answer. “It’s because they’re Canadian.” He’s right of course as this is a fine example of Canuxploitation.
10. Barrett is most definitely called by Criterion from time to time to contribute a glorious commentary to one of their releases, but he’s like “Fuck you, I’m really busy, I’m really fucking busy, and I have my own life.” He’s happy to accept when Severin calls though.
11. They mention that director Eddy Matalon is also doing a commentary – “a professional one” – but it’s absent from the disc. We do get an informative interview with him though.
12. Their friend Evan Katz (writer/director of Cheap Thrills) texts to say hi around the 28:14 mark.
13. Neither of them understand the scene where Cathy makes her mom’s food rot via a stop-motion shot, but they like it and jokingly acknowledge it could have been an inspiration for Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. It also makes them think of a film called Don’t Go to Sleep which I haven’t seen but happily agree in their assessment that Severin should restore and release it.
14. They theorize that the script may have been written in French and then translated literally into English. Barrett also thinks it was edited by bears.
15. Barrett expects that no one will listen to this track, so no one tell him about this.
16. Collins hopes the Blu includes a stills gallery highlighting some past VHS/DVD including one of his favorites showing a “sexy goth girl on the cover… sharpening a machete. What movie are you advertising here?” It doesn’t, but curiosity was piqued so I proceeded to spend more time than I probably should have googling images in search of the one he describes. You’re welcome.
17. The topic of good/bad commentaries leads quickly to John Carpenter who they correctly acknowledge is terrific on these tracks when paired with Kurt Russell. “But his In the Mouth of Madness commentary is just… plot explanation and like, how does that light work.” This is correct.
18. Barrett is surprised to see some “kind of nudity” at the 1:07:15 mark as it’s never been all that clear previous to this restoration. He points it out at the risk of becoming the next Mr. Skin and immediately apologizes.
19. Have a burning question or criticism about Barrett’s Blair Witch reboot that he won’t reply to you on Twitter about? Well today’s your lucky day. He’ll ignore your requests “unless you can show me a photograph of you holding a Blu-ray copy of Cathy’s Curse, the Severin version, with something proving the date in the background, then I will answer all of your questions about the Blair Witch.” Please note this does not include an answer as to what the lights are at the end. “But anything else.”
20. An anonymous crew member contacted Collins via his HMaD post on the film, and he shared that the movie was a Canadian tax-shelter production. It’s a fascinating moment in genre history leading to films as beloved as My Bloody Valentine and The Changeling. Read more about it here.
21. They pitch themselves as being available for future commentary tracks on restored genre pics, and if we’re lucky Severin or some other specialty label will take them up on that.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“There’s no moment in this film where a character says the word ‘bitch’ and it’s not funny and good.”
“I talk about Cathy’s Curse a lot in meetings.”
“This movie could absolutely be studied in like screenwriting classes because it does do a lot of things.”
“We’re drinking by the way.”
“Cathy is kind of my hero.”
“That’s such a great reaction to your daughter teleporting.”
“Anyone in Cathy’s Curse feels like they could die at any time or like they could live truly forever and the movie would show it in real-time.”
“This scene goes on for like an hour and a half if I remember correctly.”
“He’s British or he’s acting.”
“I meant to mention this earlier, but ut oh we’re done – ”
The actual filmmakers are typically the best options for a commentary track, but there are exceptions. Films like this one – highly entertaining but not necessarily well made – don’t need a director relaying anecdotes or technical details. Instead, you really want a fan of the film, someone unrelated to its production, whose love for it translates into interesting and humorous thoughts. Collins has long been the film’s #1 fan and most vocal supporter, and he has a lot to offer. Similarly, Barrett’s appreciation for the movie is clear, and he’s quick with humorous asides. He’s the guy you want with you when a film hits a lull, and hopefully, we’ll hear more from both of them in the future.