U.S. Catman in: Lethal Track
1990 Color 90min.
Starring: Jonathan James (Isgar), Kenneth Goodman, Blue Moroney, Johanna Brownstein, Tas Lehoczky, Danny Lau, and Sorapong Chatri.
Directed By: Alton Cheung (most likely an alias of the legendary shlockmeister Godfrey Ho)
I remember hearing Mike Nelson say in an interview once that back in his Mystery Science Theater 3000 days, he and his colleagues eventually became so skilled at weeding out the absolute worst movies — the movies that were to bad even for MST3K! — that while screening potential films for the show, all it would take was one name to appear in the opening credits for the gang to immediately reject a film. In his usual diplomatic way, he didn't reveal whose names were on the instant rejection list, but I am almost certain one of those names had to be Joseph Lai.
Joseph Lai's films are thoroughly awful by every objective measure imaginable. The standard operating procedure for Lai's IFD Films, was to purchase an obscure Asian film on the cheap, film a half hour or so of scenes featuring Caucasian actors, splice the new scenes into the original film, and then cobble together an extremely loose storyline in a half-assed attempt to tie the two together. As you can probably assume, the resulting film was typically, shall we say, less than stellar.
Following this formula to the letter, Catman in Lethal Track is an absolute mess from start to finish. After our hero Sam is inadvertently scratched by a radioactive cat (I hate when people don't keep their radioactive cats inside), he finds himself blessed with superpowers. Now seeing as he was scratched by a radioactive cat, one would naturally assume his powers would be at least vaguely catlike, like the power to regurgitate enormous gooey wads of undigested hair, the ability to ignore even the most obvious of commands, or perhaps the need to scoot his furry, pampered ass across your living room carpet at lightening speeds.
Catman scowl activate!!!
Instead Sam is imbued with the decidedly un-catlike powers of laser vision, super-strength, and the ability to turn televisions on and off with his mind. Curiously, despite his new cat powers, Catman never feels the need to utilize them. Not once during any of his battles does his laser vision or super strength ever come into play. He could have at least screwed with the bad guys by flipping their TV on and off while they were trying to watch Baywatch or something.
Alongside his best friend and covert CIA operative Gus (aka Pussy Boy?), Catman must track down the leader of The Holy Cheever Church, the evil Rev. Cheever (I know he's evil, because he's Russian...) and stop his twisted plans to unite all of Asia under the the communist shadow of the United Nations of Asia. Catman's actions are somewhat less heroic when you realize that most of the actual fighting against Cheever's “forces” is done by a bunch of people in Thailand, in what appears to be a decade or so earlier than Catman's exploits.
“What the hell do I have to do with this movie?”
The frustrating thing about U.S. Catman in Lethal Track, and most of Godfrey Ho and Joseph Lai's output, is that taken separately, both films are pretty entertaining. The Thai footage has several interesting characters and an occasional sense of humor. The newer Catman footage is just delightfully insane and would have made an absolutely hilarious film by itself. Together they are somehow much less than the sum of their parts, with the Catman scenes interfering with the flow of the higher budget Thai footage, and the Thai storyline coming across as very boring and subdued in comparison to the hilariously demented Catman segments. What you are left with is thirty minutes or so of hilarity, spread out over an hour and a half of boredom. If you can find a way to muscle through, your patience will be well rewarded, yet I'm sure that will be too big of an “if” for all but the most hardened of b-movie fan. As is usually the case with IFD Films releases, fast forward is definitely your friend.
Reviewed by Derek Miller