Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2019 January 14 • Monday

The 552nd Soundtrack of the Week is the score for a movie that I always wanted to see when I was a kid but probably never did: That Darn Cat!, music by Bob Brunner.

Differences between the original soundtrack recording and the album version appear immediately with the title song. Rendered by Bobby Darin in the movie, here you have a version sung by Louis Prima and it has a totally different feel. Still a great song, though. "While the city sleeps / Every night he creeps / Just surveyin' his domain / He roams around / Like he owns the town / He's the kind / He makes that plain / He knows every trick / Doesn't miss a lick / When it comes to keepin' fat / Some city slicker / No one is quicker / Than that darn cat!"

"Hoodlum's Hideout" immediately alerts listeners to something else going on with this music. The spirit of Henry Mancini haunts every cue. The famous "Pink Panther" theme is frequently recalled and this cue, with its jazzy walking bass should help you remember Peter Gunn.

Strings create the ambience of "Patti" and you'd be forgiven for thinking this is Mancini in a blindfold test. The harmonic structure might also make you think of several jazz standards such as "Angel Eyes" or "I Thought About You".

Menace and tension are the moods prevalent in "Mom's in Distress". Walking bass and some sinuous horn lines are again out of the Mancini playbook.

"Snoopy's Theme" is for Elsa Lanchester's character, I think, who appears to be there for comic relief. It's an odd choice since the movie's a comedy already and every single person in it is providing some kind of comic business. It ends in slapstick, as evidenced by the inclusion of the accompanying sound effect at the end of the track. As nice it is as to see Elsa Lanchester and William Demarest, their entire parts could have been cut out of the movie, which is a little long at just a few minutes under two hours.

Then comes "Kitchens To Burn", an effectively dramatic piece of scoring for one of the only really serious moments in the movie, concerning the only really serious part of the plot, the bank robbers' kidnap victim, whom they intend to kill. In this scene she hopes to escape by setting the kitchen on fire. It's not clear why she does this instead of walking out the kitchen door, but that's show biz for you This scene occurs very near the end of the movie, so the record doesn't have the cues in chronological order.

The "Surf-In" cue is frankly awesome, leaving Mancini territory for a hard-nosed, turbo-charged surf rock tune with fuzzed out guitar that sounds as if it could be played by Jerry Cole. It's certainly in his style. Okay, I guess the horn parts still sound like they could be Mancini.

The record's second side continues in the surf vein with"Ten Foot Surf", which accompanies one of the surf movies playing at the local drive-in. This is a cool piece, less surfy than "Surf-In", and more of an instrumental mutation of the title track, with the "That Darn Cat" part clearly expressed on various instruments. Pretty impressive guitar sound, bright and reverby and strong.

Then there's "Four Footed Informant", as the F.B.I. refers to D.C., the title creature, whose initials stand for Darn Cat. It's the most Pink Panthery cue on the record and the similarity is strong enough that I wonder what Mr. Mancini thought of it, if he happened to hear it. It's a longish cue and near the end might remind you of another Mancini score, namely the music for Mr. Lucky.

The first half of "Still Nine Lives To Go" is a gentle and romantic piece, with just a bit of comedic and suspenseful color thrown in. Then the bass comes walking in again and we're back in the jazz land of swinging high-hats and stinging horns.

"ABC's of the F.B.I." is a surprisingly dramatic and driving piece that effectively picks up the pace and increases the emotional stakes of the movie. It's a fine line to walk, since it's a comedy and a kids' movie but still has the threat of murder at its center. Having the music add intensity while keeping the visual action on the light side is a good way to maintain balance.

"Cat Scat" starts off with the usual walking bass line but then explodes in a flourish of frantic bongo pounding and fast jazz saxophone soloing.

After which you're told to "Take This and This and This". I can't remember what that refers to and I just watched this movie last night. But it starts in the usual way before being interrupted by the sound of D.C. meowing—I think this is when the F.B.I. guy accidentally steps on D.C.—and then we're in action/danger mode for what must be the climax of the film or possibly the scene earlier on where D.C. manipulates the F.B.I. agents into attacking themselves. What a cat!

The record concludes with Bobby Troup & Trio's version of the title song, closer to the Bobby Darin version heard in the film, and similar to Nat King Cole's famous trio. It's a really cool, light, jazz-pop tune, quite pleasant and catchy. "Now our cat's been paid / Every accolade / And he's earned all his acclaim / In a blaze of glory / He ends our story / In the feline Hall of Fame / But the way life goes / In a year who knows / From the family he begat / You may made up with one of / Maybe the son of/ That darn cat!"