Celluloid Diaries: Book tip - Cats on Film by Anne Billson

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book tip - Cats on Film by Anne Billson

cats on film

I found the purrfect present for the cat-loving movie fan in your life: Cats on Film by Anne Billson.

I first met the author at the Offscreen Film Festival in 2014 when a mutual friend suggested we get in touch because of our common interests: we both publish horror fiction and movie reference guides, and we both write blogs about cats and movies.

Around the same time, we were also thinking about creating a book about cinema cats. As I was concentrating on Avalon and When Animals Attack, Anne was the first to develop the idea. The result is now available for purchase.

Cats on Film is a fascinating overview of 100 (!) cat movies, all of which are discussed in-depth. The films are divided into 12 fun chapters. “The different CATegories developed quite naturally, to illustrate the various narrative functions that cats can play, and also provided a workable way of dividing the book into chapters instead of presenting the films alphabetically or chronologically,” says Anne Billson. “In some films, cats are killers (CATZILLA). In others, they're heroes (HEROPUSS). Cats can be metaphors (CATAPHOR), or influence the behavior of human characters (CATGUFFIN). And so on.”

“I also wanted to shine a light on the use of animals in the movies, either practical (most films use a number of lookalike cats to play a single feline - unless it's The Third Man, in which it's quite obvious that no-one worried about kitten continuity) or ethical,” Anne explains. “For example, I was shocked to learn about the mistreatment of kittens during the filming of the cute family film The Adventures of Milo and Otis - they were often placed in perilous situations which are clearly not faked, which now makes the film unwatchable for me.”

milo and otis

Anne Billson writes about these movies like she's chatting with fellow cat-obsessed can-openers - with lots of humor and an endless adoration for these celluloid felines.

Yet Cats on Film never becomes a silly “cat-people-only book.” On the contrary. The quality of the writing is top-notch, and there's plenty of information about storylines, directors, metaphors, and the filmmaking process to make this more encompassing than what you'd expect from this type of collection. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Anne Billson, who was a film critic of the Sunday Telegraph, was named by the British Film Institute as one of “25 Female Film Critics Worth Celebrating.”

“The main challenge was to avoid too much repetition,” she says. “It was awfully tempting just to write things like, 'Awwww, look at this adorable puss!' every time, but I wanted to mix it up, sometimes pinpointing the cat's place in the story, or inserting snippets of film history, or enthusing about films which I thought deserved to be better known, or writing chapters from the cat's point of view, or occasionally, yes, just saying, 'Awwww, look at this adorable puss!'.

eye of the cat

The selection of stories is original, diverse, intelligent, and multi-cultural. Most cat lovers will not have heard of several of these films.

Personally, I would have loved to see more Major Cat Movies instead of the many stories in which the cat makes only a small appearance. A few great ones are definitely missing.

“Of course, there are thousands of movies with cats in them,” Anne Billson says. “With this particular selection, I wanted to reflect the fact that cats can - and do - pop up just about anywhere in the cinema, just as they do in real life. You're as likely to find a cat in an old French arthouse movie or Japanese anime as in a modern SF blockbuster or hip American indie. Whatever the genre, whatever the language, whatever the budget, the cats just waltz right in and make themselves at home. Some films were excluded simply because I didn't have access to a decent print from which to take screen grabs; Eye of the Cat - a Major Cat Movie - was one that fell into this category. I left out other films because I couldn't bear the idea of having to watch them again; the Romanian film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is brilliant, but also seriously depressing, especially in the light of current healthcare crises and treatment of old people. I also tried to strike a balance between genre and types of cat, but inevitably the selection reflects my own personal preferences, which means there are a lot of horror movies!”

Cats on Film by Anne Billson is available in paperback and eBook. The main difference between the Kindle and paperback editions is that the paperback has more photographs, but each film is accompanied by at least one photo.

famous film cats

Book giveaway

Do you want to receive a free eBook of Cats on Film? Then leave a comment with the name of your favorite cat movie and fill in the Rafflecopter below for extra entries. The giveaway is open worldwide. Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I love the old movie "Harry and Tonto" about the old guy who goes on a road trip with his cat. A cinematic gem!

  2. I'm a big fan of animal movies though I do think there aren't as many cat movies as dog movies. Cats have such personality - there should be more.#PoCoLo

  3. I love this idea - Alan loves cats so I'm quite tempted to enter for him. Aristocats by Disney was always my favourite (Oliver and Company as well!)



  4. Oliver and Company for me!

  5. Kiki's Delivery Service is the first thing with a prominent cat that comes to mind

  6. I love Homeward Bound's Sassy. She is a great cat.
    Sherri J

  7. A Street Cat Named Bob is my favorite cat movie.

  8. Hello, I love the Homeward Bound dogs and Sassy the cat. I hope all animals used in movies are treated with respect. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your day and weekend.

  9. My favourite cat movie would have to be"Sabrina Down Under". Sabrina the Teenage Witch goes to Australia. Salem the Cat tags along.I just love him both in the few movies made and in the television series.

  10. Disney's Aristocat Movie
    Marlene V.

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  12. A Street Cat Named Bob.
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  13. Wowee what an adorable book. As a cat lover, have you seen a documentary which came out recently called Kedi? It's Turkish with subtitles and is only about an hour long or perhaps just over but it's absolutely beautiful. We have a little ginger tom and my husband was never a cat person before he came into our lives but he loves him and loves the film too X #PoCoLo

  14. I do love the Disney movie The Aristocats!

  15. I like The Cat in The Hat.

  16. I know the contest is over, but may I join in? That Darn Cat, The Cat From Outer Space, The Uncanny and Batman Returns are my favourite cat movies (usually). I haven't seen Kuroneko, have seen only some of the various versions of The Black Cat. I only got partway into The Legacy before I found the combine of Sam Elliot's moustache and Roger Daltrey distracting, but the film deserves an honourable mention for a prominent feline-featured video box cover back in the day. I just wanted to share this. That is all.

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